Saturday, November 18, 2017

Island Issues

Asia: Pakistan’s Controversial Sale of Islands for World’s Tallest Building

A pair of Pakistan’s islands in the Arabian Sea has reportedly been sold for the dramatic development of a modern city, which will include the tallest building on earth.

(Image of Bundal by A. Rafey)

(Image of Bundal Island by A. Rafey)

When it comes to real estate development, projects from flashy Miami are not exactly known for subtlety and restraint. It should come as no surprise to Pakistan, then, that two islands in its Karachi harbor bought by a Florida-based firm would be slated for something truly incredible.

The two islands – Bundal and the smaller Buddo – are as of yet fairly undeveloped, with a scattering of small fishing communities and the site of an annual Muslim pilgrimage.

If international real estate firm Thomas Kramer has its way, the twin isles will host a sparkling modern city adorned with the world’s new tallest building.

Not only would Pakistan’s island city, dubbed Diamond Bar, aim to break the record for tall buildings, but the developers hope to build the biggest shopping mall on the planet, too. The city would become a modern oasis, with Dubai-style glass skyscrapers hosting offices and luxury apartments.

(Plans for Diamond Bar Island City)

(Plans for Diamond Bar Island City)

It’s all quite grandiose for a pair of islands that, as of yet, few people outside of Pakistan have heard of. Found in the southerly Sindh province near the port city of Karachi, the site is strategically located at the place where the Arabian Sea meets the Gulf of Oman, with easy access to all of the wealthy Persian Gulf states.

The agreement has reportedly been inked for US $20 billion between Thomas Kramer and the head of the town of Bahria, who has been highly supportive of the Island City project. However, the public – including the “fisherfolk” who live on the islands – have launched a campaign against the deal.

It’s not the first time that an attempt has been made to sell Bundal and Buddo to international developers. During the reign of Pervez Musharraf, who served as the President of Pakistan from 2001 to 2008, a deal was reportedly made to develop the islands with a Dubai-based company.

(Protests over the sale of Bundal and Buddo)

(Protests over the sale of Bundal and Buddo)

News of the first deal caused a furious resistance among the people of Sindh province – one that they promised would continue in the face of future efforts to sell the islands. Hunger strikes, protests, and political turmoil quashed the deal.

The current plans have sparked a similar uprising. Provincial leaders have claimed dominion over the islands and accused the federal government of selling them illegally, and a grassroots movement of local workers has again been hunger striking and mounting a considerable opposition.

The visions put forth by Thomas Kramer of a shining paradise adorned by the tallest buildings on earth is an admirably ambitious one – however, it is a dream that fails to take into account the sentiments of the people who already call Bundal and Buddo home.

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