Sindh governor strikes conciliatory tone in effort to end mistrust over islands issue

Updated 16 Oct 2020

Email

Sindh Governor Imran Ismail ruled out any further development on the proposed project until consent was attained by the provincial government. — Photo courtesy: Imran Ismail Twitter/File
Sindh Governor Imran Ismail ruled out any further development on the proposed project until consent was attained by the provincial government. — Photo courtesy: Imran Ismail Twitter/File

KARACHI: Soon after the Sindh cabinet decided to not hold any talks with the federal government over the issue of twin islands off Karachi’s coast till the presidential ordinance was withdrawn, a conciliatory gesture was adopted by Islamabad when Sindh Governor Imran Ismail ruled out any further development on the proposed project until consent was attained by the provincial government of Sindh.

The governor also invited the Sindh authorities, environmentalists and members of civil society to initiate a debate over their concerns which he believed were originally based on myths as the federal government had designed the projects only to boost the economy and attract foreign investment.

Successful model of development

This model, he added, was adopted by several countries in Asia and other parts of the world which proved successful.

“We need to understand that everyone is stakeholder in this project,” he said while addressing a press conference at Governor House.

“It’s absolutely a propaganda and wrong impression that the federal government is taking over Sindh’s islands. We have to move forward together. If Sindh government or anyone is worried about the ordinance, revenue, environment — we will address them all. We need to talk and fix all issues.”

‘It is propaganda that the federal govt is taking over islands’

On Tuesday, the Sindh cabinet had decided to not hold any talks with the federal government over the issue of twin islands till the presidential ordinance was withdrawn.

At the outset of the last cabinet meeting, chaired by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, the issue of twin islands of Bundal and Buddu came under discussion.

PM’s instruction to sort out matter

Last week, amid widespread criticism and restlessness in Sindh over the centre’s move about the two islands for developing them as trade and investment hubs and international tourist destinations, Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed Sindh Governor Ismail to sort out the matter related to the project in consultation with the provincial government.

The directives were issued by the prime minister to the governor when the latter called on him after a meeting which was held at Prime Minister House to review progress on the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development in Punjab and Bundal Island projects in Sindh.

The fresh address to media by the Sindh governor came as continuation of the task assigned by the PM.

‘No environmental study’

He dismissed concerns raised by environmentalists about the future of marine life after development of the islands.

“Let me tell you that there has been no environmental study so far on these two islands,” the Sindh governor replied to a question about the worries shown by environmentalists and civil society.

“The people who are raising objections don’t mention any study but share their concerns only. The fact is that there is no marine life as such in these particular areas because of the raw sewage. When the island would be developed, definitely, there would be a treatment plant, a desalination plant. It will be in fact the country’s first green city project.”

‘$50bn investment; 150,000 jobs’

He referred to several countries that emerged as success stories after such developments.

Giving example of Malaysia, he said the Southeast Asian country made a forest city on this pattern on an island while China had built a global city.

“Sri Lanka developed a port city on just 800 acres or within 1,000 acres with US $14 billion foreign direct investment. We here in Karachi [have] 8,000 acres and if we succeed to attract US $14 billion, one can imagine the outcome of this project. It would create more than 150,000 jobs. We are estimating US $50 billion on the project. The whole world has shown interest in it. Why should we fall prey to confusion and miss the opportunity?” he added.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2020