KARACHI, July 24: Non governmental organisations working in the field of environment have expressed their apprehensions about the proposed new city project, Zulfikarabad, that is to be built in the ecologically-sensitive Indus Delta about 150km from the city.

The environmental impact assessment (EIA) of this huge project has not yet been conducted although the government officials concerned assured the meeting that it would be carried out at the “right stage.”

The concerns of the NGOs were voiced and the assurance of the officials were given in a meeting organised by the IUCN, recently, where the IUCN members and the government officials shared their plans and concerns over the proposed project with each other.

IUCN’s Global Vice President Javed Jabbar said that this was a large scale multidimensional project with serious implications on the environment because it was to be built in an internationally-recognised ecologically sensitive Ramsar site. Therefore the basic concept of the project should be assessed by the ECNEC before investing huge amounts of money in development as without conceptual validity the project could become a damaging fait accompli.

IUCN’s Shahid Khan said that the rights of the local communities, their water needs, environmental issues, vulnerability of the planned site to natural disasters (earth quakes, tsunamis), need for due process, urgent unmet needs of existing cities, towns and rural areas should be met first before creating a new urban centre.

The NGOs stressed that complete transparency be applied to all aspects of the planning and implementing of the project such as global, regional and national laws, treaties, regulations, etc., concerning the environment. And the obligations of the government shall be fully respected if all relevant information is shared with local communities, the public, the media and the NGOs to enable constructive dialogue, consultations and communication between the NGOs and Zulfikarabad Development Authority (ZDA), Sindh government and other official agencies.

Sindh Environment Secretary Mir Hussain Ali said that the government time and again had reiterated its determination to prevent the project from damaging the environment. He said that he was confident that the government would enforce its pledge and urged that sweeping statements and premature conclusions be avoided.

ZDA’s Shaukat Alvi said that the project was still in its early stages and land was being acquired in portions only. Therefore, the EIA, to which the ZDA was fully committed, cannot be conducted at this time, but would certainly be undertaken at the right stage.

He said that the project would relieve the congestion and stress being faced in Karachi and would create new prospects for employment, infrastructure development and economic growth for the deprived people of coastal areas. He emphasised that the people and economy of Pakistan would greatly benefit by applying the experience of creation of the new city known as Shenzen in China and signing of MoUs with leading Chinese firms. He assured the meeting that their valid concerns would be addressed.

Participants of the meeting included Naseer Memon, Mohammad Ali Shah, Tahir Hasnain, Meher Noshirwani, Fahad Maqbool, Nargis Latif, Altaf Hussain, Sameer Dodhy, Ali Dehlavi, Nadia Bajwa, Tahir Abbasi, Arif Belgaumi, Riaz Wagan, Imran Sabir, Tahir Qureshi, Ghulam Qadir, Miriam Kugele, George Sadiq and Nadeem Mirbahar.

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