ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Land Tenure Informalities and the Pandemic

Land tenure and land use dynamics are causally linked to pandemics, including the current Covid-19 crisis. Covid-19 has exposed and exacerbated the vulnerabilities of urban and rural population living with land tenure informalities. Drawing upon long-term migration data, this article argues that land and housing tenure requires sustained attention. For tenure security and reforms, governments must design and implement post-revival and resilience strategy across industrial, urban, and rural land uses and economic landscapes.


The origin of the Covid-19 pande­mic can be traced to rapid land use changes globally. Growing human population, increasing encroachment of wildlife habitats and unprecedented chan­ges prompt the outbreak of new diseases (Qiu 2020). Animals that carry human-infecting pathogens are more common in intensively used landscapes (Gibb et al 2020). Land use should be ­altered across the world to reduce the risk of future spillovers of infectious diseases (University College London 2020). On analysing the recent high-impact emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), it was found that new pathogens emerge where dense populations transform landscapes by degra­da­tion of forests, agriculture int­en­si­fi­cation, mining, and roads (Allen et al 2017).

Historically, pandemics have redrawn tenure boundaries and land–people relations, particularly land tenures and land use. A classic case was the red line by German colonisers in Namibia to control rinderpest pandemic in 1896,1 which ­divided freehold and communal tenures (Chlouba and He 2021). The outbreak of the second plague pandemic in Europe—known as Black Death—had dramatic effects in “rewilding” the landscape of the countryside2 (Ersgård 2016). An OIE (2019) study showed that there were five new human diseases that emerged every year. Of these, three were of animal origin, causally linked to land–people relation dynamics. This needs acknowled­gement and action towards land use, policy administration and practice, especially when such incidences are likely to intensify.

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Updated On : 14th May, 2022
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