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Exploitation of local islands in name of development, tourism lamented

Updated March 20, 2019

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Gul Hassan Kalmati speaks at Szabist on Tuesday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
Gul Hassan Kalmati speaks at Szabist on Tuesday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: Tapping into the enormous archival history of Sindh, noted historian Gul Hassan Kalmati gave a thorough breakdown of the history of Karachi and sea islands of Sindh to students at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology on Tuesday.

Author of Karachi Sindh Jee Marvee, Mr Kalmati highlighted how different islands, including areas in the city of Karachi, were being exploited either in the name of development or tourism, without caring about the indigenous populations that inhabited these areas or the rich cultural and religious identities that were integral to the history of Sindh.

Manora, he said, used to be an island but because of development and construction of a road network, it no longer could be considered one, which has been the fate of many other islands of Sindh.

Islanders’ basic problems highlighted

Another island, Shams Pir, was also mentioned where Mr Kalmati lamented that the locals were facing severe drinking water shortages. “The locals keep on voting for the same party, but they are to date deprived of potable water, and there tends to be no electricity at times for days,” he said.

“Most of these islands are heavily inhabited by fishermen and their livelihood is under threat, and though many organisations are working for them, including the government, you will not find any sort of conveniences available for them to lead a comfortable life. I have even seen locals loan each other drinking water, the situation is so dire. And it is likely that the situation on these islands will become worse with time.”

Mr Kalmati lamented how commercialisation was overcoming the cultural and historical significance of the province, encroaching on people’s livelihoods and also taking a toll on the climate. Some of the ways this was being carried out was through large-scale development, destruction of mangroves and blocking of open routes to the sea for fish catch.

Bin Qasim Park in Karachi was also discussed by Mr Kalmati and he criticised the authorities concerned for changing the original name, which was Rupchand Bilaram Park. “We discarded the name of somebody who was from Sindh and instead changed the name to that of an invader,” he said.

The same treatment has been meted out to Jahangir Kothari Parade, which is a historically significant structure, but because of development in the surrounding areas, it has practically become inaccessible to the public.

Culture, religion, historical and traditional lifestyles are all under threat in such areas, he stressed. The locals on these islands are in no way being provided their basic resources such as healthcare or educational facilities and as a result they suffer greatly.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2019