KARACHI: The row over the ownership of Bundal and Buddo islands between Sindh and federal governments took a new turn when the provincial cabinet declared them as ‘protected forests’ and the Port Qasim Authority (PQA) served the provincial government with a legal notice asking it to refrain from changing the status of the two islands.

On Wednesday, the matter pertaining to the two islands off the Karachi coast came under discussion during a Sindh cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.

The cabinet approved a summary after thorough discussion and deliberations, directing the provincial forest department to notify the two islands as protected forests.

The move came following a Jan 31 legal notice of the PQA, a federal statutory authority, served on the provincial government for handing over ownership of Bundal and Buddo islands to the provincial forest department.

Cabinet changes status of Bundal, Buddo islands despite PQA’s legal notice

The legal notice said that both the island fell under ownership of the PQA.

It further said that both Bundal and Buddo islands fell within the declared boundaries of Port Qasim and were transferred by the federal government to the PQA.

It said that the islands were situated at the entrance of the Port Qasim Navigation Channel and were owned by the PQA.

The Sindh government was requested and advised on behalf of the PQA in the legal notice to refrain from altering or changing the status of any of the island in any manner since they belonged to and vested in PQA. “Please note that in case of any adverse action/decision to the interest of our client [PQA] we have instructions to initiate appropriate legal proceedings to protect our client’s ownership of the islands,” the legal notice concluded.

Earlier on Jan 22, the Sindh forest department had declared Bundal and Buddo islands as the property of the province and sent a summary to the chief minister for onward approval from the provincial cabinet and issuance of a notification to the effect.

According to the summary, the Bundal and Buddo islands have a territory of 3,000 acres and 8,000 acres, respectively, and the area of the two islands was declared as protective forest under an Act of 1958.

It said that both the islands were property of the Sindh forest department. “The ports and shipping minister, or the federal government, had no lawful claim on these islands,” it added.

The controversy over the ownership of the two islands triggered after the federal government had promulgated an ordinance for the construction of a new city on Bundal and Buddo.

It had also announced to use these islands for commercial purposes.

The cabinet observed that the environmental activists had protested against this announcement and the civil society knocked the door of the court.

The much-hyped presidential ordinance, seeking the development of Bundal and Buddo islands off the coast of Karachi, had expired after its initial 120-day constitutional life lapsed and it was not passed by parliament and the government did not push for its approval.

During the operation of the ordinance, the federal government and a Dutch company signed an agreement to produce energy from the solid waste of Bundal Island and to make seawater potable.

However, the Sindh government had strongly opposed the ordinance and the provincial assembly had also passed a resolution rejecting the presidential ordinance.

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2022

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