KARACHI: The Zulfikarabad project is an ecological and social threat to the area, said environmentalists on Friday, demanding that it be abandoned.
The Friends of Indus Forum (FIF), in collaboration with World Wide Fund for Nature – Pakistan’s (WWF-Pakistan) Building Capacity on Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Areas of Pakistan (CCAP) project, launched the Sindhi version of a position paper on “Ecological and Social Impacts of Zulfikarabad – A Megacity Project” at the Marriot Hotel.
“There is an urgent need to conduct an environmental impact assessment of the project and evaluate the economic cost of the environmental degradation it will cause,” said Ghulam Qadir Shah, the national coordinator for Mangroves for the Future (MFF), which is an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) project. He cited a World Bank study which said that 15 per cent of Sindh’s GDP is lost because of environmental degradation, adding that the government gives no priority to environmental issues.
Meanwhile, research scholar Dr Ali Murtaza Dharejo warned that construction would destroy the area’s flora and fauna. He said that the development project should be rejected because there was no sound justification for undertaking it.
FIF general secretary Nasir Ali Panhwar said that the environmental and social attributes of the proposed location put the project in conflict with the sustainable development agenda, adding that it could be a potential threat to the lives and properties of future residents. He further said that the new city could cause extensive clearance of environmentally important mangrove forests.
“Under the Ramsar Convention and other global treaties, the conservation of the deltaic ecosystem is a key international obligation for the government,” Panhwar said.
While Panhwar believed that megacities had the potential to be engines of economic growth, he also said that building new cities in risky locations could reverse years of economic and human development, especially if faulty planning caused major disasters.
Prof Mushtaque Mirani, chairperson of the Sindh Coastal Area Network, said that Zulfikarabad is being constructed at the behest of the federal government and thus violates provincial autonomy. Instead, he urged the government to build bridges on the Indus Delta to connect people living on both sides of it. “This will help in developing an economic zone that will ultimately create job opportunities,” he said. “On the other hand, if the Zulfikarabad scheme is implemented as proposed, it will lead to the destruction of Sindh and its people.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2014.