Sindh provincial government has brought down Imran Khan’s pet urbanisation project. The Pakistan prime minister has had plans to create a modern city on the Bundal island that, his government claims, would vie with the razzmatazz of Dubai.
The provincial government of Sindh today declared the Bundal and Buddo islands as properties of the Sindh government. The provincial cabinet has designated these islands protected forests.
Sindh chief minister, Murad Ali Shah approved a summary that states the islands will hence onward be forests (as these are presently). By extension of understanding, the federal government will not have any ownership over the land.
The islands have been formed by silt deposited by the rivers in the Arabian Sea as rivers eroded embankments in the country’s north. Over time, these have come to occupy over 10,000 acres of land in between them. Bundal is about an fifth the size of Mumbai.
This could set the stage for a clash. In 2020, Pakistan president Arif Alvi signed a presidential ordinance creating the Pakistan island development authority to facilitate prime minister Imran Khan’s dream project of establishing a multiple-skyscraper skylined modern city in Bundal that would be promoted as tourist destinations that would vie with the razzmatazz of Dubai.
The island development authority was given the responsibility of developing the islands that, it said were in Pakistan’s “internal waters” – a definition that gave the federal government the scope to claim the islands.
Protests by environmentalists
Indeed, the Sindh government had been a mute spectator all this while until its political opposition and environmental activists objected to the project.
The matter also went to the Sindh High Court where petitioners argued that since the islands were within 12 nautical miles off the coastline, they were part of the provincial government. Federal territory in the sea, the petitioner contended, starts only after 12 nautical miles.
Imran Khan, however, kept prodding the Sindh government to allow him to urbanise the islands. He recently said, “Our cities are growing fast in the most unorganized way. We need to develop new cities. The way our cities are expanding, we would not be able to manage them. We would not be able to provide them transport, control their sewage system or manage their water supply.”
Reveling his obsession with Dubai, he told the Sindh government, “We need to develop new cities like Dubai and New York. The development of these islands would benefit Sindh, its people and its economy. I request you (Sindh government) to allow this.”
(OWSA had earlier reported on Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan’s plans to create a modern city on the Bundal island that, his government claimed, would vie with the razzmatazz of Dubai.)
OWSA had reported that environmentalists had objected to the plans to set up a city by deforesting the mangrove island. Sindh’s fishermen too had resisted the move. But the government in Islamabad has been adamant.
Today, the government said in a statement: “No talks on the island would be held with the federal government until and unless the controversial ordinance was withdrawn.”
Environmentalists are happy. They have all through argued that a third of Karachi’s green cover is preserved inside the mangroves off the coast, including the two islands and any development around them will threaten the environment.
The islands are a mangrove ecosystem, with tidal waves submerging most of these twice a day. This makes the islands a home and nursery for umpteen marine species.