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Activists call for declaring mangrove forests on Buddu, Bundal islands protected

By Our Correspondent
September 25, 2021

Demanding of the Sindh government to declare the mangrove forests on Buddu and Bundal islands protected to prevent an ecological disaster, environmental and civil society activists have said mangrove forests of the Indus Delta are crucial to saving Karachi, Thatta, Sajawal, Badin and other areas from seawater intrusion, and they are especially necessary for Karachi given the recent heatwave phenomenon and the city’s susceptibility to tsunamis and cyclones.

Petitioners Yasir Hussain and Ahmad Shabbar, and their lawyer, Jibran Nasir, addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday, said that it was very troubling news for Karachi’s residents when last year the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led federal government introduced the Pakistan Island Development Authority Ordinance 2020 with plans to do commercial construction on Buddu and Bundal islands.

They said the federal government in its shortsightedness claimed the plan would add 125,000 jobs while not accounting for the 200,000 members of the fishing community that would lose their livelihoods due to the adverse effects to the ecology. According to an estimate 800,000 people will likely be displaced due to this project.

“Additionally in order to build a city on the islands, the builders will fill in (which they call ‘reclaim’) parts of the sea using sand from other parts of the seabed. This will lead to an irreversible change in the ocean channels which will have direct yet unpredictable effects on the route to Port Qasim etc., leading to further economic damage.”

Speakers also found that the Sindh government, which was opposing the federal government’s plans for commercial use of Buddu and Bundal, had its own secretive and malicious plans to use the islands for the same purpose.

“The Sindh government had managed to do this secretly by issuing a notification in 2010 which, though on its face, appeared to declare all mangrove forests in the Indus Delta as protected, on a closer inspection revealed that it had deliberately left out Buddu and Bundal islands from the list,” a speaker claimed. Accordingly, their petition also raised questions for the Sindh government in light of this notification, they said.

“The mangroves in the Indus Delta have international importance as the Indus Delta is covered by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and listed among the WWF’s Global 200 list of important ecological sites,” Shabbar said.

However, the environmental activists regretted that despite its importance, the mangrove cover had depleted tremendously over the past four decades and it was only now that some restoration efforts were being made.

The petitioners also raised questions for the Sindh government in light of this notification. While the PIDA ordinance expired within the first three months of the abovementioned petition, the provincial government “used delaying tactics and failed to submit a response despite a passage of 10 months,” said Nasir.