KARACHI: Already strained relations between the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government at the centre and Sindh government of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) soured further on Monday when the provincial administration called Islamabad’s move to launch new projects in islands neighbouring Karachi an attempt to “occupy” the provincial resources.
The PPP government vowed that it would not let the dream of the federal government come true and take every step to protect its natural assets in accordance with the Constitution.
“Bhandar [also known as Bundal Island] and Dangi Islands, where the federal government is planning to build new cities are in fact under the possession of Sindh,” said Sindh Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahu in a statement, clarifying the position of the provincial government on the subject.
“The federation has not consulted Sindh to build a new city on Bhandar and Dangi Islands. The dream of the federation to build a new city on the coast of Sindh will never come true,” he said.
Minister Rahu says centre planning to ‘occupy’ Sindh’s islands by tabling Pakistan Islands Development Authority Act 2020
The Sindh government sounded aggressive against the proposed move of Islamabad, which came to light after President Arif Alvi held a meeting on Sunday with real estate tycoons and builders.
“Building the city on the beaches would destroy all aquatic life including fish and forests. General Musharraf’s attempts to build cities on Bhandar and Dangi Islands in the past also met with failure,” added Mr Rahu.
Bhandar, or Bundal Island, is located at the western end of the Sindh coastal zone bordering Korangi, Phitti and Jhari creeks. It is one of the biggest and highest of all the islands along the Sindh coast, with a length of about eight kilometres. The width of the island varies — it is about 4km wide in the north and 1km in the south. The island is the breeding ground of green turtles.
The sandy beaches — the east coast of Karachi — of these islands are the only areas where the endangered green turtles visit for breeding purposes. The area lies along the Indus Flyway and as such serves as an important breeding, roosting and feeding ground for migratory and resident bird species.
The migratory birds include pelicans, flamingos, cranes and resident species comprising herons, waders, terns, egrets, kites, etc.
President’s meeting sparks controversy
The fresh debate was triggered when President Alvi had on Sunday chaired a meeting at Governor House in Karachi to discuss the projects of Ravi City in Lahore and Bundal Island in Karachi with investors, real estate players and construction industry’s giants.
During the meeting, the investors had expressed their full satisfaction on the steps taken for the construction sector by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The president told the meeting that the Ravi City and Bundal Island projects were very much attractive for foreign investment and these projects would create various job opportunities.
However, the Sindh government is preparing itself to challenge the federal government’s move legally.
“The federal government is bringing Pakistan Islands Development Authority Act 2020 to occupy the coastal islands of Sindh and Balochistan, which is not acceptable,” said the Sindh minister.
“The federation could not amend Rule 27 (5) A and Rule 27 (8) 1973 for the authority without the permission of the provinces. Without the permission of the Sindh government, the federation could not build anything in any part of the province,” he said.
He said that according to the Constitution, up to 12 nautical miles of maritime boundaries fell within the jurisdiction of the provincial government.
“The federation will not be allowed to occupy the lands and resources of Sindh. The resources and natural assets of the province cannot be put at risk for such proposed developments,” he added.
Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2020