THE Sindh government’s decision to invite foreign investment for the development of a 20,000-acre Fisheries Special Economic Zone in Thatta is obviously in the interest of fisheries.
But it is doubtful that the decision will successfully be able to win the support of foreign investors given the existing law and order situation in the country.
As for employing locals in due projects, it may not be possible for foreign investors to retain them at the helm of affairs as none of the local fishermen are qualified or have adequate experience in the subject. Moreover, shrimp farming/fish farming, though quite successful in some parts of the country, involves its own risks which are too heavy to be left to laymen.
Mirpur Sakro has already seen the demise of at least two large fish and prawn culture prawns, one of the said projects was launched by a multinational but failed to survive due to many problems, including social problem.
Apart from water shortage, salinity, heavy duty on the import of shrimp larvae and fries from Thailand, etc, high mortality rate of shrimp, high cost of infrastructure, operation and maintenance, lack of access to the farms during the rainy monsoon season, security, risk from rodents and predators, pilferage played a significant role in the failure of the shrimp farming project.
Stolen prawns from these farms were sold at the Karachi Fish Harbour to the utter shock and awe of the investors.
As for the other farm at Mirpur Sakro the situation is worse. It is a huge complex which failed because as soon as it was completed, its owner fell prey to a feudal dispute and got killed. After that these farms seemed abandoned and bore no fruit.
Unfortunately the designated area for fish and farm culture by the present government decision is insecure for investors and, apart from other technical setbacks, faces accessibility problem.
The locals residing in the near by tapu’s or islands do not have any experience of fish culture and the foreign investors who undertake to build infrastructure for fish and prawn culture there might only consider them for sundry duties.
But the main problem is security. With the prevailing condition of law and order in the country it is doubtful if the decision will draw any good foreign investment for the purpose unless they are give exclusive rights over the land and the privilege to arrange their own security and other necessary technical and operational requisites.
Needless to say the inept local staff will do little to make the decision a success and would only cause as hindrance to the devised project.
The decision is good but let it not go waste at the hands of socio-political pressure which is unnecessary in the face of the fact that foreigners would be bringing in huge investment and raising large infrastructure for the development of the fisheries sector as a whole.
Needless to say that the locals should not insist on creating impediments in the way of foreign investors who would be bringing in latest expertise and experience to the fish industry and would eventually play a significant role in the economic uplift of the fisheries in the greater national interest.
MAZHAR BUTT Karachi