Journal des Alternatives

Pakistan

Poverty of Development

Feroz Mehdi, 5 March 2008

Recently the federal government of Pakistan signed a contract with Nakeel group of Limitless, a UAE based private company for construction of a new Water Front Sugar City off the Karachi coast. According to the plan this proposed new city will be built on 60,000 acres of land. The estimated cost of the mega project has been put at $.68 billion.

Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), a social movement struggling for rights of the fishing community of Pakistan strongly condemned the Pakistan government’s plan. In a consultative meeting called by the PFF on March 5, 2008 in Abdul Rehman village, Hawks Bay, Karachi, more than three hundred people from various organizations participated. Amongst the participants were several recently elected members of the Sindh National Assembly. Opposing this plan, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum stressed that it would have dire consequences on the lives of the already marginalized and poor fishing communities. “This project is totally anti-human and illegitimate in its essence. PFF has invariably rejected any development process done at the expense of life and livelihood of poor people”, said the Chairperson of the PFF Mr. Mohammad Ali Shah.

The project initiated by the Pakistan government and Limitless Company violates the right to adequate standard of living of the people guaranteed under Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) that states, "The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international cooperation based on free consent”.

All participants in the meeting convened by the PFF expressed their concerns about this mega project which they said will result in destruction of basic and traditional source of livelihood of the poor fishing communities and that it would render the entire marine ecological system terribly unsustainable. Hundreds of fishing grounds would be annihilated and unemployment among poor members of the fishing communities will dramatically increase. Mangroves forests, already being rapidly destroyed, will suffer more due to construction of this new city.

Mr. Muhammad Ali Shah Chairman Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum condemned this decision as being a sheer violation of human rights and dignity. “Government should not build or construct the cities at the cost of lives and livelihoods of the community. The community is a historical custodian of the coastal area, we will not allow any one to enter our homes and grounds without our permission”, he added.

Shah further said that the powerful lobbies in the country have always been behind these so called development projects. Thousands of poor fishermen do subsistence fishing and their livelihood depends on fishing grounds near the islands and creeks. “Since the development wizards of this country are mesmerized by the scent of dollars, therefore they have turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to long term negative effects of tempering with the natural resources of the coast. Since poor fishermen are always treated as third rate citizens, no one bothers to think about the colossal damage to be caused on their livelihood”.

Shah appealed to all national, international organizations, media, social, human rights and development groups and experts to immediately intervene into the matter and save the lives and livelihood of the poor people of the coastline of Karachi.

In order to mobilize public opinion PFF is organizing a series of public campaigns and protests that will continue till their demands are met.