Sabzwari hopes to transform islands into tourist resorts
Pakistan shares around one thousand-kilometre coastline with the Arabian Sea which lies in the third largest ocean of the world and Karachi has the sea at its foot which attracts people from all over the country. If the long-standing dream of developing the twin islands Bundal and Buddu can be materialised, the city can attract foreign tourists also.
Bundal Island is a small island located in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Karachi, Sindh. It is an inhabited island on which an old Sufi Saint, Yousuf Shah’s shrine is also present. Buddo is an uninhabited island with a total area of 60 km with dense Tamer forest.
Tourism is one of the productive business activities directed at the production of goods and services. It provides goods and services to visitors and employment opportunities to the local people. It increases the foreign exchange earnings and also generates employment opportunities. Attempts were therefore made in the past to develop these two islands into tourist resorts. But due to a disagreement between the federal government and the Sindh government, this project was shelved.
It is encouraging to note that the federal minister for Maritime Affairs Faisal Sabzwari has indicated that the federal government is considering converting the uninhabited islands into beautiful recreational spots without affecting the marine life and environment in collaboration with the Sindh government.
Talking to a Saudi Urdu Language Daily he said that there were bright possibilities to avoid concrete constructions on the uninhabited islands including in collaboration with the Sindh government and turn them into excellent tourist destinations.
He said that ‘this can create employment opportunities for the local people along with providing recreational facilities to the people coming to the city from other parts of the country as well as foreigners.
It may be mentioned here that efforts were made in the years 2000 and 2006 to develop the two twin islands during the regime of former President General Retired Pervez Musharraf, but the project failed due to various reasons. Later in 2013, the People’s Party government also tried to start development work on the island through Malik Riaz, a real estate tycoon.
Accordingly, Bahria Town signed a joint venture with the companies of Thomas Kramer to develop Bodha Island City on Bundal and Buddo Islands with a cost of $20 Billion. Covering 12,000 acres of land, this project was to be developed in 5 to 10 years.
The global attractions of the project comprised the world’s tallest building, the world’s largest shopping mall, a sports city, an educational & medical city, an international city, and a media city – all having the most modern facilities and amenities and the most advanced infrastructure. This project was to provide employment to an estimated 2.5 million people, as well as housing to potentially millions of people.
Somehow, the federal and provincial governments also came face to face on the issue of settlement of these islands which resulted in the postponement of the project.
During the PTI regime, an effort was made to develop the twin islands into tourist resorts. But the Sindh government turned down the proposal and declared the two islands as “protected forests” in a cabinet meeting.
Due to severe criticism and vehement opposition from the PPP government, the federal government was left with no option but to shelve the project.
Despite the issuance of the Presidential Ordinance, the work on these islands could not be started. Now the current Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Senator Faisal Sabzwari is once again going to work on this project.
Faisal Sabzwari said that together with the provincial government, they were trying to settle these islands for entertainment, in this regard, discussion with the provincial government had already been started.
He said that in addition to the development of the islands, people can be provided with an opportunity for an entertaining visit from Karachi to Gwadar, the work on the feasibility report which is in progress and as soon as it is back from the drawing board work might start.
According to Faisal Sabzwari, the government is also trying to start a ferry service from Kemari to Port Qasim for tourists.
“Port Qasim has a 49 km channel where new container terminals, berths and jetties can be built. “The available infrastructure at Port Qasim is almost full, so an advertisement is being made for a contractor for a new container terminal,” he added.
He also said, ‘the construction of this terminal will bring an investment of several hundred million dollars while it will also become an asset for the country.’
Federal Minister Faisal Sabzawari believes that Karachi Port is congested, but it can be used for multi-purpose activities. “The option of transhipment and cross-stuffing is available to us, the government of Pakistan has currently decided to start transhipment and stuffing in Gwadar.”
Citing the example of Jabal Ali and other ports, he said ports are not only used for transportation of raw materials but can also be used for re-exporting value-added products. As such ports have a multipurpose role in developing the economy of a country.
He said that in this regard, talks have been held with the Sindh government and some international donors and it was agreed that there was a need to build sewage treatment plants on the sea, but this project had also been waiting for a go-ahead for many years.
About the cooperation between the federal and provincial governments, he said, “Unfortunately, in the past, the federal government and the provincial government did not talk to each other, but after taking charge, I went to the Chief Minister’s House and met for the improvement of the province. So now our officers are meeting with the officials of the provincial government and a working relationship is being established.”