Pakistan waterfront project occupies more land than New York, says expert

Amar Guriro, Daily Times 9 Mar 08;

KARACHI: The area of the proposed mega project of the ‘Waterfront Sugar Land City’ initiated by the Federal Government of Pakistan with a Dubai-based construction company occupies more area than most of the cosmopolitan cities of the world, including New York, San Francisco, Washington DC and Rome, said architect Arif Belgaumi.

Shehri-CBE and Dharti organized a seminar ‘Our Coast is Under Threat’ in collaboration with the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung at a local hotel Saturday to discuss the new project.

“The proposed plan of the Waterfront Sugar Land City is not feasible as there is no harbor at the site and it is distant from the major highways and roads that connect other cities with Karachi and the unavailability of potable water indicates difficulties in the future,” said Belgaumi.

He used computer sketches and maps to show that the actual land area of the project is twice the area allocated by the government. “With the help of computer sketches, I found that the area is not 44,000 acres but over 80,000 acres,” he said. He also stated that the project holds negative consequences for Sindh.

WWF Deputy Director General, Dr. Ejaz Ahmad said that construction of the ‘Waterfront Sugar Land City’ endangers the species of green turtle. “The green turtle of the Arabian Sea is found along a 5.5-kilometer-long shore on Sandspit and the project would completely destroy its nesting site,” he said.

He also pointed out that the Government of Pakistan was a signatory to various international conventions, including Ramsar, a convention for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. It is thus bound to protect these natural sites.

Roland deSouza of Shehri-CBE said that after completion of the ‘Waterfront Sugar Land City’ the beaches would become private, something that constitutes a violation of the law.

Muhammad Husain of Maheegir Tehrik said that it would cause the resettlement of thousands of fishermen from their ancestral fishing grounds. “Controversial mega projects such as this are not for development but for the destruction of the local fishing community and that they would not accept such projects,” he said.

Dharti is a coalition of 17 civil society organizations working against the construction of Waterfront project.

During the seminar, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), a civil society organization working for rights of the Sindh fishermen community and a member organization of Dharti objected to the resolutions passed by Shehri-CBE.

“Shehri-CBE has just demanded its concerns on certain aspects of the proposed plan of Waterfront Sugar Land City’,” said PFF president Syed Muhammad Ali Shah. PFF became a part of the Dharti coalition to stop the project immediately.

During the seminar when a member of Shehri-CBE started reading the resolutions, Shah objected and insisted on including as a main point that the seminar completely rejected the project.

“See the other projects the government promised different plans about them but later it was proved that the promises were nothing than just false claims, therefore the project must be stopped immediately,” he demanded.

A majority of the participants agreed with Ali and insisted on including the point, which was added: “If our demands are not fulfilled, we will reject the project.”

Shah alleged that Arif Belgaumi was an official architect on the project. “He is speaking against the project but he is actually part of it and in such conditions we cannot work with them, therefore have decided to part with the coalition,” he said.

Belgaumi rejected the allegations, saying that he was not the architect. “I have only six staff at my office and with such a small staff I can not design such a huge project,” he explained.

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