Zulfikarabad project: environmental threats being reviewed
By: Noor Aftab
ISLAMABAD: A multi-billion mega Zulfikarabad City project in Indus Delta belt, initiated by the government, is feared to pose serious environmental and ecological threats to the area, generally called ‘jewel in the crown’ of Pakistan’s ecological heritage.
According to Expression of Interest issued by Zulfikarabad Development Authority (ZDA) the project is conceptualised along the coastal belt. It would be east of Karachi somewhere on the coastal strip of the Indus Delta, including parts of Jaati, Shah Bunder, Kharo Chhan and Keti Bunder in the Thatta district.
The statistics showed that more than two-thirds of 1.3 million acres earmarked for Zulfikarabad City is under tidal influence as the sea intrusion eats away 18 acres each day in Thatta district. So, if the current trend continues then one million acres of land must be reclaimed from the sea.
A report, compiled by WWF-Pakistan, revealed that the area where the city has been proposed houses about 50 percent of the country’s remaining mangroves cover measuring 135,000 acres most of that is declared as protected since 1950s.
Mangroves are depleting at the rate of 2.3 percent per annum in the Indus Delta. The Zulfikarabad City project is likely to remove mangroves cover from these locations making it vulnerable to natural coastal disasters.
An official who requested anonymity said Pakistan Environment Protection Act requires an environmental impact assessment of such kind of project, but this requirement is yet to be fulfilled by the concerned authorities.
The latest data showed that the proposed city being termed by the government officials as ‘future rival’ of Karachi is located in an active seismic zone near Allah Band fault, posing potential threat of severe earthquake.
A report prepared by Michio Morino, Javed Malik, Prashant Mishra, Chandrashekar Bhuiyan and Fumio Kaneko stated apart from Allah Band fault, there are also some other faults, including Katrol Hill Fault, Island Belt Fault, Kachchh Mainland Fault and Bhuj Fault in adjoining areas of the location of the project. It is also pertinent to mention here that from 2001 to 2010 two high intensity cyclones i.e. cyclone Yemyin and cyclone Phet narrowly missed Sindh coast.
The official claimed that Sindh Minister for Culture and Tourism Sassui Palijo not only protested but also boycotted a meeting, chaired by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, stating the elected representatives from Thatta district were not taken into confidence over the project.
Naseer Memon, chief executive of Strengthening Participatory Organization, in his report stated that it is a project ‘for elite by elite’ that can become an environmental disaster for the area.
Sindh Minister for Environment Sheikh Muhammad Afzal told ‘The News’ that Environmental Impact Assessment report of the project is yet to be submitted, adding, “ZDA is working on it and it would submit the report to provincial Environment Protection Agency in the coming weeks.”
To a question, he said there are reservations by some quarters regarding environmental threats due to this project, but ‘one thing is very clear that we will take care of each and every aspect in this respect.’
Talking to this correspondent Sindh Minister (without portfolio) Sadiq Ali Memon, who was elected from Thatta area said the government would follow international standards to protect environment and ecological settings of the Thatta area.
“No one should be worried about the environmental threats due to this project as the government would take every step to protect natural environment in the area. A 230-km long iron wall would also be built at the boundary inside the sea to protect the area from floods,” he said.