A presidential regulation was promulgated on 31 August 2020 to establish the Pakistan Islands Development Authority (PIDA). The federal government has planned to build and develop two main islands, Bundal and Bundoo, near the Karachi coast. The Sindh and federal governments were already at loggerheads, and these developments have intensified the fighting.
Again, the Center does not involve parliament. Without a parliamentary debate, a split between Sindh and the federal government was inevitable. In a petition that is being heard about the matter at the Sindh High Court (SHC), Advocate Shahab Usto argues that 18th The amendments give provincial jurisdiction over water within 12 nautical miles. It said the amendments could not be made by regulation, but were passed by a two-thirds majority in the national and provincial assemblies.
The PPP promised to take the matter to the Senate, National Assembly and provincial assemblies. While this is an appropriate step forward, we must understand that the problem is much bigger than the rift between the Central and the provinces. The ecological consequences of such an initiative will affect the entire country and people from all walks of life.
Mixed messages are being sent; debates shouldn’t be about who owns which island. These are the islands of Pakistan – essential for the sustainability of our ecosystem. Mangroves are home to mangroves that reduce the effects of global warming and help marine life thrive.
A study by Mesoamerican Reef concluded that there are “25 times more fish in close proximity to mangrove areas than in areas where mangroves have been cut”. This makes mangroves very important for coral reefs and commercial fisheries. Nearly 25% of marine fish depend on healthy coral reefs. However, currently, due to accelerating climate change and global warming, more than 50% of coral reefs have been lost.
Without a mangrove protection role, several small countries, such as the Maldives, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands, would not exist. Karachi lands, especially in the south, are also not safe from natural disasters.
In Karachi, the coastal belt is home to mangrove forests which provide essential ecosystems for our marine life. The area is also home to local fishermen, who burn oil at midnight to feed their families. In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis – where livelihoods are affected – we cannot simply leave fishing communities. That is the last thing any government has to do.
A prominent environmentalist from Lahore, Dawar Butt, has highlighted how sea level rise poses a major threat to DHA Karachi residents and those close to the coastline. As global warming gains momentum, rising sea levels will bring devastation on an unprecedented scale and nature.
Various countries have started investing in disaster risk management initiatives near coastal cities. When will Karachi act? As a nation, we only take action when natural disasters occur, when the damage has already occurred. Once threats are dealt with, we once again forget about disaster risk management. This must change.
Particular attention should be paid to sewage that is disposed of directly into the sea. It is worrying that 400 million gallons of untreated waste are dumped into the ocean every day – a silent killer of marine life. According to CM’s Environment Advisor, Murtaza Wahab, the coastline is controlled and supervised by the federal government and the CBC. We have to put politics aside and quickly reverse the suffering of marine life here.
The federal government should not be involved in projects that can cause unrest. Don’t forget the Karachi people, workers with daily wages, still trying to recover from the heavy rains that destroyed their livelihoods. Instead of facilitating the Karachi people, this will destroy the livelihoods of the fishing community.
Instead of confusion about who owns which islands, the central and provincial governments must not forget how ‘development’ here will impact the biodiversity in the area.
We must all be on the same page in reversing accelerated climate change and preventing irreparable damage to the planet and its inhabitants.
Published in The Express Tribune, 21 Octoberst, 2020.