Critics of Zulfikarabad city describe it as ‘development cleansing’

SUP holds seminar where displacement and rushed pace of project questioned.


Our Correspondent September 11, 2012

HYDERABAD:


The project has not yet started but the rumblings of discontent are being heard against the new city of Zulfikarabad near Thatta.


A seminar was organised on Monday by the Sindh United Party that is opposed to the project. Its focus was “development at human cost” as it felt the new city would breach global social and environmental safeguards. The new city has been planned over Keti Bunder, Kharo Chhan, Shah Bunder and Jati talukas of Thatta over 375,311 acres. “Four talukas of Thatta, 480 villages, six archaeological sites, 17 creeks of the Indus delta, 223 kilometers of a coastal belt and over 400,000 people are at stake,” said Amanullah Talpur, an SUP activist, agriculturist and environmental activist. He claimed that local stakeholders were not consulted during the feasibility study.

“The displacement, resettlement and creation of an alternative livelihood of the population concerned has not been worked out,” added Zulfiqar Halepoto, who heads the Sindh Democratic Forum, a development organisation. “The World Bank confessed to violating these safeguards during the construction of the Left-Bank Outfall Drain but two decades later we plan to repeat the same disastrous mistakes.”

The area selected for the city is located in a seismic zone. But, according to Halepoto, the feasibility study lacks consideration for disaster management. Around 957,041 acres from the sea will be reclaimed to bring the total to over 1.3 million acres. The Zulfikarabad Development Authority was set up in November 2010. It aims to steer development of a special economic zone and infrastructure projects. However, since the launch, the project has only attracted the opposition of the locals and Sindhi nationalists.

Ismail Rahu, a PML-N leader from Badin, said the project was planned for the rich. “The poor people of Sindh will not be able to buy an inch of land in that expensive city,” he claimed. On the contrary, he added, the people will lose their land and livelihood and in fact leases of over 80,000 acres was cancelled by the Sindh Board of Revenue.

He questioned why existing cities in Sindh, which desperately needed development, were being neglected while hundreds of billions of rupees would “drained” on Zulfikarabad. “Such huge investment could turn Tharparkar and Umerkot into fertile areas, increase agricultural productivity in south Sindh, modernize our irrigation system.”

There was plenty of criticism for the pace of work as well. “A study to remodel the LBOD [by the Louis Berger firm] is taking five years because they are consulting the local communities,” said columnist Dastgir Bhatti. “But a city has been planned in less than a year?”

He challenged the government’s claim that it was giving local people priority when it came to jobs. “Without human resource development how is the government going to force private investors to employ unskilled people only because they are natives?” he asked.

The Pakistan Peoples Party also came under fire. “Asif Zardari’s PPP has turned out to be an enemy of Sindh,” said the elderly writer and intellectual, Ibrahim Joyo, in a rare jibe at the party. He urged the people to defeat the PPP in the next general elections. Using the term ‘development cleansing’, he said the Zulfiqarabad and Thar coal projects would actually deprive Sindh of its natural resources.

The participants passed resolutions rejecting Zulfikarabad and demanding the development of all 23 districts of Sindh instead of creating a new city. They also rejected the new local government ordinance, calling it a continuation of the conspiracies to divide Sindh and rob it of of its natural and financial resources.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2012. 

COMMENTS (2)

beylal | 9 years ago | Reply

the main problem is.... zulfikarabad will be another karachi.... finally then sindhis will turn into a minority in their own province... !

Khalq e Khuda | 9 years ago | Reply

Thats what they said about Port Qasim and it has proved to be one of the biggest asset of Sindh.

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