DHA’s Waterfront Development Project. Privatisation of Clifton Beach in Karachi


The Defence Officers Housing Authority (DHA) has a plan to convert 14 kilometres of “virgin, unspoilt (sic) waterfront into a $600 million series of playgrounds and leisure/pleasure spots to be known as the ‘DHA Waterfront Development Project’ which will provide to the rich and affluent of Karachi (Pakistan) the luxuries of an aristocratic life. This extravaganza consists of seven zones with expensive commercial, entertainment, residential, commercial, hotel and office buildings, and includes the reclamation of 74.5 acres of land, for a high-end Hotel Complex, and 5-star hotels owning private segments of the beach, and a private beach with lagoon for hotel & residential blocks. It needs to be determined whether the DHA has any authority over the Clifton beach. Beaches are legally meant for the public at large. Can the DHA undertake a project which excludes a majority of the city”s

In Karachi, Pakistan there are two development projects underway. The Port and Shipping Minister Babur Ghouri has approved the construction of a fountain (650-foot high fountain, the second highest in the world) which cost is Rs320 million for the poor people. A fountain that when it does work (by design reportedly it remains inoperative for half the year) sends water shooting uselessly up into the sky so that poor people can gawk at it while holding on to their starving and parched children. People in Karachi dont have safe drinking water and the citys sanitation, sewage and drainage system is in the worst shape possible and millions of its residents are slum dwellers yet. This reality brings to mind Coleridges lines: Water, water everywhere / Nor a drop to drink[1]. Poor people in Pakistan need electricity, clean water, jobs, education, and food on the table for their families.

Also, another multi-billion dollar DHAs Waterfront Development Project is planned over a stretch of 14 kilometres of land from Sindbad (Old Casino) up to the Golf Course in Clifton Beach. The plan divides the coastline into seven distinct zones (A to G) and envisages high-rise commercial building complexes, hyper marts, food courts, cinema, amusement park, five-star hotel, an underwater world with a Dolphin Park and aquarium, amphitheatre complex with a capacity of 6,000 people and water sports facilities. The plan also includes a 600-feet Monumental Tower, with a revolving restaurant and observatory deck. Besides this, a Water Park with water sports, rides, swimming zones and a wave island is planned on 11 acres of land. The plan also allows for viewers’ deck, parks, a promenade and piazzas but these public access areas seem to make a very small part of the plan.

Once the DHAs plans were completed, the poor people of the city may not even let anywhere near the fountain or the Clifton beach area. According to the DHAs own press release of February 2005, it has initiated a US$623 million commercial project. For the excerpts from DHA Karachi’s website and brochure the creativity and imagination is promising to make Karachi beachfront a much sought-after tourist destination in the foreseeable future. Entirely practical and wholly realizable projects will have a deep impact on the lifestyle of the people of Karachi whose perception of enjoying the sea at present consists of riding a camel or a horse or just taking a walk on the wet sand and watching the waves crash on the shore. They will soon have access to multiple recreational activities within their reach“.

What the authorities and experts do not consider is the poor people will be happy enough to go to the beach or to a nearby public park. Lord knows Karachi needs many more public parks and green areas for its 15 million residents, particularly the underprivileged ones. It is necessary to ensure the continued free access to public beaches one of the very few options available for some cheap, wholesome entertainment for the less fortunate for those who cant afford to be gouged for the privileges.

[1] Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1797), published in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads in 1797-1799.