THERE goes Kutta Island. To be honest, despite being born in this city I never knew such a place even existed in this huge metropolis. But then what do I know? To be serious, this patch of land (or island) named after our canine friends may soon be taken over by deep-pocketed animals of the two-legged variety. And as opposed to the pooches, it can be argued that these animals are definitely not man’s best friend.
As reported recently, a multi-billion dollar (yes dollar, not rupee) deal was supposedly signed by a local (and considerably controversial) property tycoon and a firm from Abu Dhabi. However, clarifications from the shaikh and counter-clarifications from the local developer in the press made a farce out of the whole thing. The grand scheme sought to transform the kalaa paani for canines into a bustling resort for super-rich humans that would boast, among other things, the world’s tallest building. Now the Gulf Arabs are admittedly loaded and have a penchant for financing ridiculous monstrosities like this in their own lands. Yet in the days after the news was published the shaikh said, in not so many words, that he would not touch such a project with a bargepole. So it can safely be assumed the whole thing was a publicity stunt. But more importantly, would such a gambit work in Karachi? Is it even needed?
One understands that foreign exchange — that too in such handsome amounts — coming into the country would be a good thing, as would the “millions” of jobs such a huge project would create. Yet some important questions need to be answered. Firstly, is such a structure suitable? Will it work in our environment? Will proper environmental assessments be carried out or will big money ensure that all the prickly questions receive satisfactory answers?
Secondly, the infrastructure of this city is crumbling. Our streets are potholed, overflowing with sewage, snarled with traffic. There are shutdowns of electricity and gas (imagine getting stuck in an elevator on the 127th floor in the world’s tallest building when loadshedding strikes and there’s no gas to run the industrial-strength generators. Not a comforting thought). Wouldn’t it be a much better idea to invest in the people of this city and its infrastructure?
Why not attract investment to bring clean water, good schools, safe housing, affordable healthcare and decent-paying jobs to the people? Why think about building playgrounds for the super-rich when so many in this city sleep on the streets or struggle to put food on the table?
One is not opposed to development; however, development should be sustainable (even though sustainability has become something of a cliché). Building the biggest this and the tallest that is more suited to confused societies who have forgotten their culture and thrive on attracting tourists through building useless edifices of glass and steel — temples to Mammon. We, on the other hand, have a culture, even though it may be dying.
Instead of building useless monstrosities we need to build society. Let us develop Karachi by taking care of its environment, restoring law and order and providing opportunities to its people. Leave Kutta Island alone.—QAM