KARACHI, Sept 7: A coalition of 16 civil society organizations, Dharti, has asked the government to make public the details of Waterfront Development Project before initiating any work on the project.

The coalition representatives noted that the government had started the process of soliciting an expression of interest for the project, showing total disregard for environment laws, despite public outcry against the project.

The demand was put forward at the launch of Dharti at a press briefing organized here in Sachal Hall, Ibrahim Hyderi, on Friday. The coalition has been formed to address the threats posed by human activity to the environment and aims to take up controversial development projects by educating and mobilizing people and seeking redress through the court of law.

Member organizations of Dharti are: Baahn Beli-A Friend Forever, Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Strengthening Participatory Organization, Shirkatgah-Women Resource Centre, World Wildlife Fund for Nature-Pakistan, Women Action Forum, Pakistan Maheegir Tehrik, Sahil Bachao, The Helpline Trust, Indus Earth, Institute of Architects of Pakistan-IAP, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Karachi Women’s Peace Committee, The Pakistan Women Foundation for Peace, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum.

Nargis Rehman of the KWPC and Ghulam Qadir Shah of the WWF are the chairpersons.

Pointing out the coalition’s objectives, former federal minister Javed Jabbar said that Dharti would tackle the environmental issues concerning coastal, urban and rural areas. The alliance, he said, was in favour of development as long as it was in harmony with nature.

Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum chief Mohammad Ali Shah said the approach of benefiting the few and depriving the masses of even their fundamental rights was not good for the solidarity of the country. Instead of launching pro-elite projects, he said, the government should focus on provision of basic facilities to the masses.

“We need safe, clean drinking water, improved sewerage and drainage system for the city rather than costly projects like Diamond Bar Island City,” he said, adding that this would be disastrous for the fishing communities which had been using Buddo and Bundal islands as an important staging post for long. Besides, it would affect the ecology of the area as mangroves that serve nurseries for fish and shrimps would be destroyed. “These islands are also part of the Indus delta which is a Ramsar site,” he remarked.

EIA mandatory

Nasir Panhwar of the International Union of Conservation of Nature said the government had not carried out any environmental impact assessment studies of the coastal development projects, including Diamond Bar Island City, Sugar Land City and Waterfront Development Project, which was mandatory under the law.

It was pointed out that the site of the waterfront project had already been identified by foreign experts as the wetlands of international importance, located around Hawkesbay and Sandspit beaches – one of the rare nesting grounds for the endangered green turtles in the world and home to many bird species.

The speakers apprehended that the project would destroy the habitat while restricting public access to the Karachi coast.

Earlier, journalists were taken round Buddo and Bundal, under the control of a Dubai-based construction firm, Emaar, these days. It was noted that fishermen were no more allowed to use the area as a staging post.

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