Published in DAWN December 29, 2006
KARACHI, Dec 28: The Green Economics & Globalisation Initiative, Shirkat Gah, and Pakistan Mahigeer Tehreek (PMT) held a meeting to bring together representatives of civil society organisations and political parties to brief them about “Selling off another piece of Karachi”. The subject of discussion at the moot on Thursday was the sale of the two islands, Bundaar and Dingi, and its impact on the environment and the local communities.
In his lucid presentation Naseer Memon, an associate member of the PMT, explained how the islands have been sold to the Emaar Group by the Port Qasim Authority for $43 billion to build “another Dubai”.
Mr Memon documented the ecological significance of the islands which are covered with 10,000 hectares of mangroves that serve as breeding grounds for green turtles, fish and shrimps. Their commercialisation would have an adverse environmental impact on the area. As it is the mangroves in the Indus delta have shrunk from about 250,000 hectares in1977 to 80,000 hectares today.
The sale of the islands would also affect the livelihoods of the small fishermen who use Bundaar for fish drying and net repairing yards in the absence of space on the mainland. Their right of way could also be curtailed. Some families living there have already been uprooted and they are no longer allowed to visit these islands, the meeting was informed.
Najma Sadeque of Shirkat Gah termed this process the “Red Indianisation” of this region when not just the resources but the land of the indigenous people who have lived there for centuries is being taken away.
Describing the indivisible common lands as Shamlaat, Ms Sadeque said that such water bodies, pastures, forests, etc, that are used collectively and exclusively by the local communities cannot be made into private property.
The purpose of the consultation was to generate proposals on what strategy should be adopted. Some of these included:
Launch an awareness campaign on the electronic media file a public interest litigation in the courts hold peaceful rallies in the city to draw attention to the plight of the fishermen and mobilise the people hold a political dialogue with the parliamentarians to lobby with them to take up the issue in the Assemblies focus on the environmental aspect of the commercialisation of the islands the talks were preceded by a slide show and a 40-minute documentary film by Deneb Sumbul.