Need stressed to ensure food security in Pakistan

KARACHI:Speakers at a seminar called for joint efforts to ensure food security and end malnutrition among poor people in the country.

The seminar on the theme of ‘Food Security Interventions – A Dialogue on Missing links’ was organized by Pakistan Institute of Labor, Education and Research (PILER) at a local hotel on Friday.

Senior Researcher, Haris Gazdar, said that as per Agricultural Census 2000 and Population Census 1998, majority of the land of the country was in possession of a particular group which was a great hindrance in agricultural growth of the country.

He said that only one percent of the rural households owned 30 percent of agricultural land of the country. Similarly, only six percent owned 32 percent of the area which is between 12.5 acres to 50 acres.

He said that on the contrary, 52 percent of the rural households are landless and they work in other’s fields and get only minimum wages which were not sufficient for their basic nutrition needs.

He said that although the agricultural growth had increased by the time but it had only increased the wealth of certain people and not increased the nutrition level of people who work in the fields. “We can increase the nutritional level of people by giving them the chance to cultivate their own land,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Aly Ercelan from Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum criticized the new nuclear projects to be setup in Karachi and said that it would destroy the fishing industry of the country.

“A couple of weeks back, several fish were found dead near KANUP nuclear power plant but the security authorities did not allow a Karachi University team to investigate whether these fish died of some chemicals or other things.”

He warned that if two more nuclear plants were established in Karachi, then it would not only be a threat to the city but in case of destruction of these plants, its effects could be felt to Thatta and Badin.

He further said that more nuclear plants at Chasma would also affect Indus River so it was the prime responsibility of the province to reject these projects.

Giving a briefing on nutritional levels in India via Skype from Centre for Economic Studies and Planning Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Professor Parveen Jha, said that in 1970s, normal nutritional level was set at 2495 calories for rural areas of India and 2400 to 2200 for urban areas. “Now in 2013, this level had sharply gone down to 1800 calories in the country.”

Describing the categories of Global Hunger Index, Jha said that there were three levels which include levels between scores of 0 and 100. “Serious level of hunger lies between 10 and 19.9, alarming level lies between 20 and 20.9 while the extremely alarming level lies above 30.”

He said that in 1970s Indian’s score was 32.6 which was extremely alarming but in 2013, its score came down to 21.3 which was in the category of alarming. “This decrease was made possible due to special steps taken by union and state governments of the country.”

He said that the Indian government had passed a Food Security Act in 2013 which would target the 63 percent of the under nutritional population of the country.

He said that a distribution of subsidiary food items to the people was great step in this regard. “We have made ration cards through which subsidiary food is given to the people.”

Speaking on the occasion, PTI MPA, Arif Alvi, said that the malnutrition in Pakistan was not only causing effect on the growth of a person but also on the intellectual level of people. “It was due to his malnutrition that people were involved in corruption,” he said.

He said that it was a crime for state if a child dies due to shortage of basic necessities because it is the responsibility of the state to provide basic necessities to the people.

Iqbal Detho (Save the Children) and Karamat Ali (PILER) also addressed the seminar while several distinguished guests including Awami National party leader Bashir Jan was also present on the occasion.

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