Bundal and Dingi are two islands that are situated at the Karachi coastline and are subject to a major tussle between the Federal and Sindh governments. The controversy has further fueled another debate on the leadership and its misplaced priorities as the problems faced by ordinary citizens are entirely ignored and a rather callous indifferent attitude is adopted by the government.
Pakistan’s government is aiming to construct modern cities on the Bundal and Dingi islands to ease the financial as well as rehabilitation pressure on Karachi. Experts however have a very negative outlook regarding this prospect as they believe that this project would result in a major ecological catastrophe. The fisherman of the islands who has been associated with fishing for their livelihood were ghastly shocked against the decision of Pakistan’s government to establish the Pakistan Islands Development Authority and bring the islands under the dominion of federal authority. The fishermen and locals are threatened by the governments’ approach as they believe that the prospect of converting islands into modern cities would not only harm their commerce and occupation but also impact the island grooves. It is imperative to note that the mangroves along the uninhabited islands are crucial to the environmental protection of Karachi and exceedingly Pakistan.
Bundal Island is situated in the Arabian Sea and is a part of the Indus Delta region and is guarded by the International Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The island is already surrounded by various environmental threats – increasing air and water pollution, rising sea level, exploitation of resources, hunting, habitat loss, etc. Furthermore, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has stressed his idea of turning these islands into mammoth real-estate projects with a proposed investment of $50 billion which would consequently generate 150,000 jobs. Environmentalists and leaders of the provincial Sindh government are opposed to the Bundal Island ‘New Dubai’ housing project. The provincial Sindh leaders have further contended that the federal government has issued an unconstitutional ordinance and therefore, the ordinance shall be opposed for the sake of the environment and people. The federal ministers for maritime affairs as well as ministers for climate change are, however, silent on this issue. In addition, local as well as acclaimed architects have also slammed the government’s housing plan raising the same climatic concerns.
Another issue that further draws serious attention is the foreseeable diminishing mangroves due to this project. The coastal mangroves minimalize the risk of natural disasters including urban flooding and work as natural barristers to avoid tsunamis. The Pakistan government and executive authorities have neglected these islands for decades and as a consequence, once-pristine mangrove forests along the coastline are now in terrible shape. If the deterioration of habitat continues at this pace, many Karachi’s marine species would cease to exist.
The construction, though promises to provide jobs, is also anticipated to result in displacing at least 2.5 million fishermen and their families. The fisherman communities have erupted with widespread protests and are also inclined towards knocking on the doors of courts if the government doesn’t deter. Personalities belonging to multi-disciplinary sectors like art, photography, and films have also expressed their displeasure and disappointment on the project contending that ‘new cities’ development should not be an ecological nightmare for locals.