Of the many stories related to the powerful land mafia of Karachi, the latest addition to this condescending account of land grabbing involves none other than the famous Defence Housing Authority which plans to engulf no less than 490 acres of rich mangrove forest near the coastal belt of Karachi and plans to convert it into a giant waterfront, chopping down the endangered mangrove tress on a gargantuan proportions.
Karachi’s mangrove forest which thrives on the south eastern coastal regions of Karachi surrounding Malir River and Gizri Creek is now the prime target of the Pakistan’s leading land developer DHA which plans to carry out an extension of Phase-7 and initiate development of Phase-8.
Mangrove forest form one of the most important wetland features of Coastal Karachi and provide sustenance to several thousand species of fish and birds. Mangroves are one of the few plant species which thrive both on brackish waters of the sea and the sweet water supplied through the vast Indus delta as the mighty river breaks up into channels before it surrenders to the Arabian Sea.
This major chunk of land has been under litigation for several decades and there are a handful of cases dating back to the then Chief Minister of Sindh Jam Sadiq Ali, when this land was allegedly allotted to some big wig beneficiaries citing their right as ancestral land upon forged documents. Sindh Environmental Protection Agency, although seemingly helpless in this war among giants, has made a few feeble attempts to declare this allotment as a violation of the Indian Forestry Act 1927.
“The Indian Forestry Act of 1927, inherited by Pakistan in 1947, has many provisions to safeguard forests including mangroves,” said Dr Mohammed Ali Shaikh, former director general of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency. “The spirit of this and other laws is that forest area shall not be diverted for any non-forestry purpose except with the government’s approval.”
This violation of the forestry act is currently under hearing in the superior courts and only time will tell whether the oxygen-starved Karachiites will be spared with perhaps their only indigenous sources of oxygen.