Civil society and activists have rejected a project of construction of a new city on twin islands of Dingi and Bhundar on Karachi’s coast, representatives of the civil society organizations have expressed fear that the construction would affect local people and deprive hundreds of thousands of the fishermen of their livelihood.
Press conference held at Karachi Press Club, Muhammad Ali Shah, Chairman, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum; Karamat Ali, Executive Director of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Asad Iqbal Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), and other labour leaders addressed a joint on Tuesday.
They criticized the federal government’s proposal to create Pakistan Islands Development Authority to develop the islands. There are 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 to 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 actually a destruction and devil project, which will be ruined the lives of fishermen and the environment.
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 the establishment of an Authority is reportedly prepared, which would be presented in the Parliament for approval. But, the major reason behind the 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 Riaz but the Supreme Court banned the construction.
Moreover, besides the twin islands, a city over 60,000 acres of coastal land in the Hawks Bay area was also planned with the name of Waterfront Sugarland City, and then City District Government’s website had mentioned such a project with an estimated cost of Rs 68 billion.
They criticized the federal government that it had decided to construct the city on twin islands without any consultation with the Sindh government, as the area did fall under the provincial jurisdiction.
The federal government’s action is not only against the Constitution of Pakistan, so is against international conventions and agreements, which provide social, economic, and cultural sovereignty to the indigenous people.
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 the Sindh and Balochistan governments.
Dingi and Bhundar 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.
They asked the government, they should not establish new cities Islands that would deprive around 800,000 fishermen and caused poverty. Instead, government should improve other cities. (Press Release)