Unchecked development making Karachi beaches ‘Dangerous’

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Karachi: Establishment of residential areas after reclaiming land of the Arabian Sea has made Karachi’s most popular picnic spot, the Clifton beach ‘dangerous’ for public.

According to a study conducted by Climate Change Division of Pakistan, in collaboration with World Wide Fund -Pakistan and Mangroves for the Future, “areas situated in the ‘low-lying intertidal zone’ of the Arabian Sea 20 years ago have been turned into posh residential areas by the Defence Housing Authority DHA.”

For a major development work, the waterfront project DHA intruded 300 meters into deep water and around seven kilometers along the Clifton beach. The renovation of land has hindered the movement of rocks and sediments near the shore to break the tides along the coast and deposition of sediment during the summer monsoon. Consequently, Clifton beach has turned into a dangerous spot due to the erosion of its ‘intertidal’ zone causing human casualties every year.

Last year in July, the drowning of 23 people at Clifton beach by a flash tide threw quite a damper on the happy occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr.

Ameenullah, a lifeguard of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation told News Lens Pakistan that on public holidays between 100,000 and 200,000 people can visit the beach when attendance of rescue staff is already thinner than usual.

However, Ameenullah expressed his frustration to News lens Pakistan regarding public behaviors for not giving heed to repeated warnings of not bathing in the sea, especially during the monsoon season when the sea is rough.

The city commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui while talking to News Lens Pakistan expressed his concerns regarding the developmental work being conducted by the DHA causing flash tides on the Clifton beach.

He told News Lens Pakistan he has personally monitored the rescue activities and the rescuers with the help of Pakistan Navy helicopters and managed to find 23 bodies during two days after the drowning tragedy.

Following the incident, however, the city administration had imposed a ban on bathing in the beach which had stayed in place for around two months.

The Director of Karachi met office Dr. M Hanif explained News Lens Pakistan that the residential project of Phase VIII for which the DHA has reclaimed land has removed the cushion between the coast and wave by deepening the sea bed. “This results in high energy waves and with the seabed gone to break them, they land on the shore with full strength, “he added.

Karachi’s coastline is comprised on series of elevated shorefronts and marine terraces which are between six meters and 15 meters above sea level. The lower areas have additional support of rocky fronts in Cape Monz or Paradise Point.

The study also attributed the loss of Bundal Island, off the coast of Karachi, to the searching activities being conducted by the Port Qasim Authority (PQA) since the 1970s for easing the ship movement.

Similarly, it also highlights the case of Karachi Port Trust which began to reclaim land near the oil tanker terminal in Shireen Jinnah Colony for real estate purpose by searching land in the intertidal zone near the National Institute of Oceanography.

“The area was reclaimed successfully at that time but the following year as a result of deepening of the intertidal zone, waves with high energy started attacking the shore protection wall and inundation of seawater occurred frequently causing damage to the newly built coastal road,” states the study.

Haroon Ahmed told News Lens Pakistan that “We often visit Clifton beach on holidays. It has been developed a great deal in the past few years. There weren’t as many hotels along the shorefront as there are now but now I seldom take my family there because now the sea has become rough. The waves were calm before but now even if one is up to his knees in water, the water seems to be pulling back with great strength. I have had friends who lost their loved one bathing carelessly in the sea and I don’t want to be one of them. So it’s better to stay away.”

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