Recently, the Pak Govt has hinted at developing twin Islands of Sindh and transforming these into Island cities which will attract large investment and job opportunities for people of the Sindh. For this purpose President Arif Alvi issued an ordinance for establishment of Pakistan Island Development Authority (PIDA). This Authority will directly undertake Islands of Sindh and Balochistan. The main focus of the government behind creating PIDA was to develop “Dingi” and “Bhundar” or Built Islands.
While this move may have rejoiced many quarters, interested in investment, but people across Sindh are protesting wide and large. To show opposition and rejection to this ordinance and project, on October 15, Thursday, Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum staged a protest and held a boat rally to reject Presidential decree about establishment of Pakistan Island Development Authority (PIDA). The major stakeholders of these Islands are fishermen who are living on the coastal belt of Sindh and are dependent on fishing to earn their bread and butter. Fishermen, around the vicinity of Ibrahim Hyderi and surrounding, are in a deep state of shock and anger about the Federal Government’s move to override the people and hold this natural habitat for the greed to make money and disguising it as “investment and employment opportunity”.
Younus Khaskheli, a local fisherman, who has spent his whole life in fishing, said “Consisting of around 13000 acre, these Islands have sloppy lands surrounded by mangroves, that’s why these are natural habitats and nurseries for thousand types of species.Fishes lay eggs in these mangroves, developing cities on these Islands would be the biggest sin done to the ecosystem of marine life”.
“These losses would not limit marine life but will be replicated on humans too, as fishermen are already living a poor and miserable life, there would be nothing left for them to catch from sea, beside this there would be food insecurity for the people of the city”, he added. Bursting on federal Government’s move about developing cities and terming it as an employment and investment opportunity, he said “Government is only luring them, we know what happened to the people of Gizri, Bath Island, and Kimari, these areas were used to be Fishermen colonies and Jetties, they forced fishermen out of there and build big commercial units. Now you would find there everything, but not the fishermen”. Describing his old days, Younus Khaskheli, sobbed for a moment and said in an emotional way “Gizri creek used to be our direct way to the sea, but we are not allowed to use that one and now we have to take a canal way to reach deep sea”.
Speaking from the fisherman perspective, he said “There are around 25 lac people who are associated with the fishing profession, their life is already in misery, and you can go back and check the state of Ibrahim Hyderi, so many other fishermen colonies. If the federal government wants to bring some change to the people, why don’t they turn their eye to our miseries and help us out”.
Amar Guriro a veteran Journalist, who has worked on the environment, said “Feasibly these Islands are not viable for developing cities. Because of Global warming, we know the water level is already increasing, look at Maldives, how the Island nation is already trying to migrate to other countries”. “Similarly as per environmental rules, these Islands are not suitable for development of cities, as head of National institute of Oceanography Dr Asif Inam’s statement in the Senate; he has informed upper house that till 2060 Karachi will be underwater due to rising sea level”.
“Apart from that these Islands are home to 200 different types of local and Siberian birds, turtles, lobsters, crabs and other species of marine aquatic life”,
Amar continued further. Speaking further, Amar described mangroves forest as lungs of the city and said, “To develop a city on these Islands, would require deforestation of mangroves, which will create hurdles for Karachi, as these mangroves are breathing space for this city and work as lungs. Constructing a city on this Island would create a lot of solid waste which would be disposed of into the sea; hence it is a complete death warrant to the people of coast and marine life”.