Human Rights Watch slams Pakistan for 'forcibly evicting' farmers for infrastructure project

Human Rights Watch slams Pakistan for 'forcibly evicting' farmers for infrastructure project
Human Rights Watch has condemned Pakistan's eviction of thousands of farmers for a plan to build the 'world's largest riverfront city'.
2 min read
12 April, 2023
The Ravi River flows through Lahore in Pakistan [ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images]

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday slammed Pakistani authorities for 'forcibly evicting' thousands of farmers for an infrastructure project in the country’s second-biggest city of Lahore. 

In a report published on Tuesday, the rights group criticised the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project - a massive infrastructure project that former Prime Minister Imran Khan said would help address a myriad of problems in Lahore including pollution, sewage, housing, water and employment. 

The project aims to create the "world’s largest riverfront city" on the Ravi River by purchasing land to house around 10 million more people. 

According to the rights group, however, the government acted on behalf of private developers to acquire the  property, 85 percent of which comprised agricultural land. This land was a source of livelihood for nearly a million farmers, labourers, and business owners.

Those who opposed the acquisition of their land have faced intimidation and criminal charges from authorities. Around 100 farmers have been charged for refusing to hand over their land, according to HRW.

One farmer who spoke to Human Rights Watch said: "The government says they want to build a new city, but why do they need to destroy the city and lives that we already have to build a new city?"

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The project was even deemed unconstitutional by the Lahore High Court in 2022 before the ruling was overturned by the country’s Supreme Court. 

"Punjab provincial authorities have harassed and threatened area farmers to deprive them of their homes and livelihoods," Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch said. "The authorities need to ensure that government projects minimize displacement and loss of income, but also minimize environmental harm and flooding risks."

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The HRW report also outlined the environmental impact of the project, which could alter the course of the Ravi River and significantly increase the risk of flooding.

Pakistan is already a flood-prone country and has experienced several deadly floods in the past decade. It is still recovering from last year’s catastrophic floods that submerged nearly a third of the country.