Sindh High Court to take up case tomorrow
Another petition challenging the federal government’s jurisdiction over Sindh’s Bundal and Buddo islands has been filed in the high court. The petition focuses on the importance of mangroves, the existing threats, and the impact of commercial projects on the ecology of the Indus Delta.
Lawyer Jibran Nasir filed the petition on behalf of environmentalists and environment activists Syed Yasir Husain, Ahmad Shabbar, and Syed Jamil Hassan Kazmi. The case will be heard by a bench comprising justices Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Arshad Hussain Khan on Friday.
Mangroves are important for the ecology of the Indus Delta, said Shabbar while speaking to SAMAA Digital. “Any development without sustainability is just construction. You cannot construct a building and call it development. You have to think about the area surrounding the building too.”
The Indus Delta in Sindh, which is the sixth-largest in the world, is home to 97% of mangroves in Pakistan, said the petition. The Bundal and Buddo islands are a part of the Indus Delta and spread over 12,000 hectares which is more than the size of Karachi’s Defence Housing Authority and hosts about 3,349 hectares of mangrove forests.
“That history is testament to the fact that the mangrove forestation and its encompassing habitat on the islands of Bundal and Buddo have been maliciously neglected and left to deteriorate and have been the target of usurpation with several attempts having been made to commercialise the same,” it said. “Any act of deforestation of the mangroves for purposes of initiating any development project under [the Pakistan Island Development Authority Ordinance, 2020] will result in irreparable loss of an already degrading and shrinking mangrove forest.”
The petitioners have asked the Sindh government to explain why mangroves of the Buddo and Bundal islands — located in Korangi, Phitti and Jhari creeks — are the only forests that haven’t been declared ‘protected forests’, adding that they should be declared to be so.
The federal government should be restrained from causing any damage, alteration, or change in the landscape of the mangroves on Buddo and Bundal islands till a ruling comes on this petition.
In September, the Pakistan Islands Development Ordinance 2020 was passed that gave the federal government control and jurisdiction over the two islands and enabled the establishment of the Pakistan Islands Development Authority with its head office in Karachi.
“The ordinance is apparently intended to usurp the Bundal and Buddo islands which are exclusive territories of the Province of Sindh,” according to the petition.
A civil suit and constitutional petition have already been filed in the high court challenging the ordinance.