(City): Civil society rejects proposed construction of new city on Karachi islands

Karachi:Rejecting any construction of a new city over twin islands of Dingi and Bundal on Karachi’s coast, representatives of the civil society organizations Tuesday expressed fear that the construction would affect local people and deprive hundreds of thousands of the fishermen of their livelihood.

In this regard, Muhammad Ali Shah, Chairman, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum; Karamat Ali, Executive Director of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER); Ms. Mahnaz Rahman, Director, Aurat Foundation; Ms. Farhat Parveen, NOW Communities; Asad Iqbal Butt, Vice Chairman, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; Saeed Baloch, General Secretary of PFF, Habibuddin Junaidi addressed a joint press conference at Karachi Press Club.

They criticized the federal government’s proposal to create Pakistan Islands Development Authority to develop the islands. There were around 300 small and big islands in Sindh’s coastal belt that were made by the River Indus over the period with its silt. Instead of providing demanded water in the Indus Delta, they said, islands made by the Indus River were being destroyed in the name of development and occupied illegally. This development is actual a destruction, they remarked.

Pakistan has a coastal belt of over 1050 kilometers and all islands located in that belt would be taken into control by the federal government. A Bill for establishment of an Authority is reportedly prepared, which would be presented in the Parliament for approval. But, the major reason behind establishment of this authority is to take control of the twin islands and construct a new city over them.

Representatives of the organizations said that the former government of General Pervez Musharraf had twice attempted in 2000 and 2006 to develop the twin islands but the project could not be successful because of various reasons. Later in 2013, the PPP government had also tried to develop the islands through Malik Riazbut the Supreme Court banned the construction.

Moreover, besides the twin islands, a city over 60,000 acres of coastal land in Hawks Bay area was also planned with the name of Waterfront Sugarland City and then City District Government’s website had mentioned the such project with an estimated cost of Rs68 billion.

The federal government has decided to construct the city on twin islands without any consultation with the Sindh government, as the area falls under the provincial jurisdiction. Federal government’s action is not only against the constitution of Pakistan but it is also against international Conventions and agreements, which provide social, economic and cultural sovereignty to the indigenous people.

It is fact that Sindh’s islands are property of people of Sindh, where fishermen have the traditional rights over them while provincial government is the custodian of the land and forests. According to the Constitution of Pakistan, provinces have ownership of marine waters starting from the coast to 12 nautical miles and all these islands fall under provincial boundary. Thus, they are property of Sindh and Balochistan governments.

Along with Dingi and Bundal, these islands are home to thousands of hectares of mangrove forests. These forests are nurseries of fish and shrimps while these creeks from Karachi to Thatta are fishing grounds for the fishermen. With construction of a new city, fishermen’s fishing grounds will come to an end along with their pathways. The development of islands and construction of any city would also harm the environment. They said that with construction of the city and so-called development of islands around 800,000 fishermen would deprive fishermen of their livelihood and would they suffer extreme poverty.