Privatization of Clifton Beach


Clifton beach By ZAFAR OMER

I HAVE followed the comments of Mr V. A. Jaffery on Karachi’s Clifton beach project. His recent letter “Clifton beach” (May 8) speaks volumes of the military rulers’ apathy towards the public welfare. When a very eminent citizen of Pakistan criticizes the project, authority is expected to sit up and listen. The cry of anguish of Mr V. A. Jaffery has so far only moved the authorities to the extent of directing a khaki to respond (letter from DHA PRO, March 24).

If this is redress of grievance when Mr Jaffery is bewailing the action of the authority in patronizing the mafia of land grabbers, then one can imagine the futility of shouting for our rights.ZAFAR OMERLahore letter to editor daily Dawn Karachi 18 May 2005

1. Privatization of Clifton Beach By Noman Ahmed

CONCERNS have been raised by several responsible citizens of Karachi on the reported privatization of Clifton beach areas by the civic agencies during March 2005. According to news reports, the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) is all set to obtain the allotment and physical control of Clifton beach. What is naturally obvious is the privatization of beach land for mundane physical structures of all sorts in the name of developing the beach area and the surroundings.

If the intentions of DHA are materialized, the coast line will become a hodgepodge of glossy looking buildings serving a minute fragment in the society: resorts, clubs, hotels and even office towers.

The common people of the city will lose another commonly shared asset which is simply beyond replacement of any kind. The decision to turn this vital ecological and recreational asset into private property for nascent commercial exploitation needs to be carefully reviewed.

As a megapolis, Karachi is acutely short of recreational facilities. Parks and recreational spaces are a minute fraction of the total allocated land-use prescribed for the city. They are under constant threat of encroachment, land-use conversion or illegal occupation by the land grabbers.

A study of Karachi Metropolitan Region reveals that less than four per cent of total land was earmarked for utilization as parks and playgrounds. Normal urban planning practices shows that this figure should not be less than 10 per cent of the cumulative urban land use in large cities.

Studies have shown that dozens of parks were officially converted to other amenity uses such as religious/worship places, hospitals and even housing development. In respect to overall developmental balance, all the land uses including the recreational deserve an importance and protection.

For a city like Karachi, the economic performance can be directly correlated with provision of recreational facilities and spaces in many ways. According to the current situation, more than 65 per cent of the population is in the age bracket of economic productivity. This population has many needs which are essential to be fulfilled. Access to affordable options of recreation is a basic aspect.

Whenever and where ever the recreational needs are fulfilled, trends have shown a healthy economic output from the population. In a situation where recreational facilities have declined, social evils such as crime and violence erupt out that severely affect the economic productivity of the people. In Karachi, the majority of population – especially the labour force – is already affected by several social and economic pressures.

Rising unemployment and job insecurity; poor housing/living conditions; breakdown of essential infrastructure; exponentially rising costs of most basic goods and services; depression and other psychological disorders due to social and economic frustrations are generally prevalent in a sizable cross section of the population.

An effective manner to mitigate this social-economic menace is the provision of appropriate recreational facilities. Beyond doubts, urban beaches are used as a popular attraction which can be frequented at least of costs. Loss of local recreational spaces have many adverse impacts on the overall performance of the concerned population.

Reduction in the productive capacity of individuals, rise in stress, inability of household womenfolk to adopt a healthy life style, adverse impacts on the development of young children and an overall cost of environmental quality in every day life are few resultants of this intensifying urban malady.

In this bleak scenario, coastal and beach recreation becomes an all the more vital urban activity that need to be strengthened, conserved and promoted in the urban norms. As a prime recreational spot, the urban beaches have been performing as sites of intense public activity ever-since the British times. However, the urban beaches experienced tremendous pressure from unscrupulous and greedy interest groups that intended to convert the recreational land into parcels of commercially exploitable real estate.

Unfortunately the civic authorities such as DHA have been reported to connive with such elements for petty gains. Present boom in the real estate markets may have been a compelling reason to explore this dubious opportunity. Issues related to utilization of urban beaches thus need to be understood in the true perspective of their existence and emerging scenarios.

In the traditional practices of city planning, beaches were considered as prime public assets with full rights of entry and usage to all citizens. Nature of activities planned in such areas had an un-stinted public orientation. Provision of fun spaces for toddlers and children, walking and jogging tracks for all age groups, resting benches and other kind of public infrastructure was laid down to create a recuperating environment for the otherwise stressed up citizens.

As a universal practice, the access and rights of utilization ensured complete access to all classes in the city to benefit from the recreational facilities. Karachi also benefited from the planning wisdom during the post-independence period. Clifton beach was developed and extended as a prime location to attract urban dwellers of all ranks and profiles.

Beaches and coastal zones are such locations where the attraction for privatized development is optimum. The reason is simple. Private sector intends to maximize its profits by exploiting the natural potential of beach for their enterprises. Casinos, hotels, clubs, marinas beach resorts and shopping malls are such places that generate lucrative revenues for investors. In this consequence, the city planning controls delineate very stringent guidelines to protect the urban beaches from any negative outfall of commercialization. A basic measure applied in such situation is the land-use consolidation of beach zones.

The data related to the beach characteristic, trends in the changes of sea front and the historical variation of sea level is documented and analysed. The stretch of the beach with its dimensional characteristics are hence forth established.

A strip of 500 metres from the wet edge of the sea is normally kept free from any kind of building development for provision of recreational facilities, road and streets, ecological repositories and public facilities areas. Scores of international conventions, coastal development guidelines and planning principles underpin this approach.

The Karachi Coastal and Recreational Development Plan (KCRDP) (1986-2000) has also clearly assigned the public status to the urban beaches. It has laid down a precise framework to protect and safeguard the urban beaches as vital recreational zone for people of all age and gender groups.

It shall be criminal to snatch this important zone for private profiteering and exploitation. Like the other plans prepared for the city, the KCRDP was never notified or implemented, making the city beaches vulnerable to commercial pressures.

Development of private facilities does not happen along the urban beaches such as Clifton. The suburban locations are normally chosen for inviting the private sector to develop their desired projects in accordance with city master plans. Holiday villages, resorts and hotels are allowed according to prevalent contractual modes. At times such initiatives become useful in introducing new developments in otherwise difficult terrains, under developed coastal areas and even isolated islands.

Clandestine conversion of Clifton beach into a private domain is not an appropriate attempt. It points to serious irregularities. The same authority is responsible for reckless reclamation of land causing grave environmental repercussions along the south eastern coastline of the city. This decision must be reverted in the larger interest of the city. Such commercially motivated venture become possible due to the absence of an urban master plan.

Preparation and notification of Karachi Master Plan; promulgation of specific byelaws and regulations pertinent to sensitive locations such as coastal and urban beach zones; enforcement of effective bench marking requirements for physical development on sea front areas and initiation of public consultation are some necessary steps in this respect. Source: Daily Dawn Karachi 11 June 2005

2. Mushroom of unplanned units by MEHRUN NISA BALOCH

Karachi’s agricultural lands and green belts are being converted into commercial and industrial units. The rapid growth of unplanned factories within the agricultural lands and villages are creating another Lyari. The most serious issue is that these industrial units are being created without any master plan.

This is changing the whole scenario in such a way that the once lush green and fertile lands are no more there. What is more dangerous is that these factories and chemical industries are being set up in the proximity of villages.

The effects of these are going to be seen in the near future in the shape of industrial effluents being discharged into nearby Sukkun and Malir rivers. Drinking water lines for the village population and the discharge lines of these factories are running parallel at some places. Even toxic discharge lines are crossing the drinking water lines.

The main agricultural areas of Bin Qasim Town start near Quaidabad. While travelling on National Highway one used to see the old PIA farms surrounding the lush green fields, now being converted into industrial areas. Near the Karachi Export Processing Zone roundabout on main National Highway, two big industrial concerns have propped up.

These two units are discharging their effluents directly into the Sukkun River, whose water is used for growing many kinds of vegetables that are supplied to the Karachi city. Near Shafi Goth, on the main National Highway, some other industrial concerns are also discharging their effluents into the Sukkun River directly. While passing the Sukkun River, just at the left another industrial concern is being constructed. Opposite to this industrial company on the road there is a floor mill.

There are several other units that add to the agony of the people living around. All these huge projects are going to encircle the villages and destroy the ecology and environment of the area. MEHRUN NISA BALOCH Councillor, City Government, Karachi Letters to the editor Daily Dawn 18 March 2005

3. Allotment’ of Clifton beach by V. A. JAFAREY

The Clifton bay, the only view of the open sea easily accessible to the common residents of Karachi, and the Clifton beach were exposed to sewage disposal, oil spills, floating wrecks and urban encroachments in the past.

The few kilometres of the Clifton beach that remain are now threatened with extinction by a Rs1.5 billion project of the Defence Housing Society, described in a report in a section of the press (March 1). If the news report is correct, the project, undertaken by unspecified foreign investors, will be launched in the next few months. There are many questions and issues, relating to the project which should cause concern not only to the residents of Karachi but in view of the principles involved to the country at large.

First, has the project been approved by the provincial government or the KDA or the agencies responsible for the environment or protection of the coastline? Obviously not. Perhaps the DHA is exempt from operation of all rules and laws pertaining to town planning, coastal conservation, etc.

Secondly, why has the project not been notified for public information and comment? In case of commercialization of residential plots, the neighbour’s consent is necessary. Can a whole beach be handed over to developers without consulting those concerned who, in this case, are the people of Karachi.

The news report states that the “beach has been allotted” to the DHA. This is extraordinary. Can national beaches be allotted to private housingsocieties? Will we learn one day that K2 and Nanga Parbat have been leased to some tourism corporation?

In countries promoting tourism, seaside resort development always excludes the natural beach from building intrusions. If such a beach allotment has been made, which authority has sanctioned it and on what terms and conditions, as regards price, etc.?

The DHA and other ambitious beach developers should heed the warning of the ruined casino on the Clifton beach which has passed from birth to death without enjoying the benefit of the interval of life. The Clifton beach, despite the mutilation it has undergone, remains a free publicly-owned area for the enjoyment and benefit of the less affluent. The details of the project are not available but in view of profusion of luxury buildings proposed, the area left for the public beach would be minuscule.

Where would the common man be in the glittering world of five-star hotels, private lagoons, shopping plazas, high-rise buildings and other urban monstrosities? What happens to the traditional donkey cart races, the congregation of youths on New Year’s Eve and lakhs of common visitors who go to the Clifton beach for innocent enjoyment of sea breeze, the sandy beach and a view of the immemorial Arabian Sea. I hope that better sense will prevail and the project is abandoned for good. V. A. JAFAREY Karachi Letters to the editor Daily Dawn Thursday 17 March 2005

4. Allotment of Clifton beach by ARIF HASAN

I fully endorse the concerns expressed by Mr V. A. Jafarey in his letter (March 17) regarding the “allotment” of Clifton beach. Beaches cannot be allotted. They belong to the people of Karachi. Under the provisions of the Coastal Management Plan of the Karachi Development Plan 2000, allotment of a beach or its privatization is simply not possible.

It is a matter of great concern, and frightening as well, that over the years all multi-class recreational, entertainment and cultural space, which existed previously, has disappeared in Karachi.

Saddar has become a transit camp for commuters; the old city has been turned into a warehouse and, as a result, its community institutions and the beautiful buildings that housed them have been abandoned; numerous populist auditoriums and libraries have disappeared; museums, zoos and inner city parks are no longer frequented by the elite; and cinemas which provided affordable entertainment to lower-income families have been forced to close down.

Poor settlements are being bulldozed (often illegally) and their inhabitants are being pushed to the periphery of the city far away from health, education and recreational facilities. The rich have ghettoized themselves and stolen the natural assets of the city for their exclusive use.

All this has been made possible because of long periods of dictatorship and manipulated “democracy” due to which the evolution of a culture of consultation and transparency in the urban planning process has been ruthlessly crushed.

The result is that city planning and management institutions have become inefficient, incompetent and corrupt and tools in the hands of powerful land-hungry interest groups.

In addition, cantonment boards have their own zoning regulations and planning processes that do not relate to the larger Karachi context. In this process Karachi has been dangerously fragmented and land use, in violation of all planning ethics, is unashamedly determined by land value (often manipulated) and not by social and environmental considerations as it should be.

All those who are concerned about the well-being of the city (which by the way means the well-being of its citizens) should come together to prevent elite encroachments on Clifton beach or privatization of any part of it, as it remains the only multi- class recreational area of the city and it is important that it should be preserved and developed as such. ARIF HASAN Urban Resource Centre Karachi Letters to the

5. Allotment of Clifton beach by RAFI ADAMJEE

This has reference to the letter by the PRO, DHA, Karachi. An arrogant attitude was noted, depicting the DHA as almost a superpower.

The DHA, it seems, has an insatiable desire to sell beaches by building ordinary buttresses and filling the area with sand. Phases VII and VIII are on reclaimed land. Now the DHA has Clifton beach in its sights. With the mention of foreign buyers the beach may have already been sold. If this is the case, in the near future, it may be possible to walk to the oyster rocks.

The sea has a habit of returning to the original coastline unless shields or dykes are constructed. A recent example is the devastation caused by the tsunami waves which resulted in death and destruction in hundreds of miles of extended beaches.

We request the DHA to leave the poor man’s beach alone and look for greener pastures elsewhere. RAFI ADAMJEE Karachi Letters to the editors daily Dawn Karach 27 March 2005

6. Allotment of Clifton beach by A RESIDENT Karachi

This has reference to the rejoinder of the PRO, DHA, Karachi, to the letter “Allotment of Clifton beach” by Mr V. A. Jafarey (March 24).

The DHA is a statutory independent body but does not mean that whatever it does is divine wisdom. I will strongly urge the DHA use its “statutory independence granted through presidential ordinance” with prudence.

The PRO has claimed that because of the beach plan “the citizens of Karachi will soon see a real qualitative change in their lives and in their concepts of relaxation, style and fun”.

I found this contention regrettable because a large number of DHA residents face hardship and agony due to shortage of water. Doesn’t the PRO see the Rangers-controlled NLC water tankers plying on DHA roads and do the residents buy water from these water sellers for fun? I wish the DHA executive board had realized that beauty lies in meeting the basic needs of its tax-payers.

The DHA executive board undertakes “transparent” evaluations while totally ignoring the hardships faced by the residents due to water scarcity, overflowing gutters, open manholes, broken roads, reeds growing in every vacant plot and providing a good breeding place for mosquitoes.

The large vacant space between Khayaban-i-Shujaat and 26th Street on Khayaban-i-Shamsher is lush green and gets irrigated with overflowing gutter water from a nearby manhole. Occasionally, the stagnant sewage is drawn from this manhole by a tanker. At many places the gutter lines are not connected to the main sewerage line.

Discharging its responsibilities towards the residents is the prime responsibility and should be the DHA’s first priority. A RESIDENT Karachi Letters to the editors daily Dawn Karach 27 March 2005.