The foundation of the island city began in 2006 when the government, led by Pervez Musharraf, signed a memorandum with Dubai-based developers to sell
16km of coastline for development. In 2013, Pakistani property tycoon Malik Riaz signed with an Abu Dhabi investor to build the “world’s tallest building” on the island city.
More recent plans revive the same extravagant
claims of surpassing Dubai, with properties and projects on the twin islands. The government report notes that policies will be in place to enhance the international competitiveness of tourism and commerce.
Sindhi activists have objected, saying the development benefits only the elite and harms the unique ecology of the delta. Their “save the islands” movement has gathered momentum
among the community, which numbers more than 100,000 in the village of IbrahimHyderi alone. According to the Sindh Livestock and Fisheries department, there are six million fishermen in the province.
Muhammad Qasim, 36, and four of his brothers are fishermen. “People tell us the sea won’t vanish so let these developments happen. The sea won’t vanish, but it is being taken away from us
by force,” he says. “Our livelihood is being taken from us. We are alive because of the sea. Federal government should be giving jobs to us but instead, they are taking our jobs away.”
Environmentalist Arif Hasan says: “The islands are part of a delicate ecosystem. Mangrove marshes are nurseries for fish. They are home to migratory birds and also a
buffer between the city and the ocean. This buffer has saved Karachi city during many cyclones.”
Mohammed Ali Shah, president of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, alleges that the government order was illegal, as it did not have the authority to take
over islands that are located in provincial waters.
Additionally, fishermen fear being seen as a “security risk”. In recent months
their movement has been restricted, they have been banned from Dingi island, and those caught with their boats too close to the island have been chased off, or even attacked.