Saturday, April 28, 2007

Save Karachi's Beaches!

There's a petition going around that protests the development around Clifton beach, development that will put normal, everyday pleasures out of the reach of lower middle class families. There isn't a great deal to do in Karachi at the best of times; if these developments take place, there'll be even less, particularly for those people who can't afford Rs. 1000 steaks. I'm reproducing the text of the petition below. If you care at all about Karachi and its citizens, please sign it here.
1. The DHA plans to construct theme parks, marinas, expo centres, expensive hotels, and condominiums on the 14 km of beach area between McDonalds and the Golf club. This area is currently enjoyed by Pakistanis of all backgrounds which will no longer be the case once the project is completed.

2. We, the undersigned citizens of Karachi have been campaigning and demanding for the immediate end of the DHA’s Beach Development Plan and its implementation as it prevents the common person’s free access to the beach, contravenes the law, and shall cause immense environmental damage.

3. The Sindh High Court in its judgment in CP No. D-103/2005 has stated as follows:
(i) “the DHA is bound to consider public interest while developing the Clifton Beach.”

(ii) “all over the world, beaches and waterfronts have been developed but in a manner so to allow free access to the same by the public and so as not to obstruct a view of the beach and the sea.”

(iii) “the doctrine of public trust has long been recognized all over the world, which enjoins the State to preserve and protect the public interest in beaches, lakeshores etc.”

(iv) “we direct that all the public areas viz. walkways, promenades, etc, should be made available to the public at large free of cost.”

(v) It also directs that the EPA issues relevant permissions under the Environmental Protection Act.

4. The Karachi Coastal Management Plan, prepared in 1989 by the KDA Master Plan Department with UN assistance, as part of the Karachi Development Plan 2000, had recommended a 50 metre construction free accessible zone beyond the high water mark.

5. In light of the above, we demand that the DHA and Environmental Protection Authority follow The Karachi Coastal Management Plan, and fully adhere to the judgment of Sindh High Court in letter and spirit and amend the current plan in accordance with the same.

6. Under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997 (PEPA) any project of sufficient size has to undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and a No Objection Certificate (NOC) obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before the project can proceed. No review of an EIA can be conducted without consultation from a Committee of Experts constituted by the EPA. No such Committee of Experts has been formed or consulted for this project. The regulations under PEPA also requires for the results of the EIAs to be presented before the citizens in a public hearing for their comments on the project and its EIA. These comments are to be considered before any final decision on the EIA.

7. This development if it were to happen as originally planned will destroy the natural environment of the coast and will make almost the entire beach inaccessible to the citizens of Pakistan, especially to the low and lower middle income communities who will not be able to afford the cost of the expensive entertainment being proposed and will be excluded simply by the nature of developments that are to be implemented

8. No one can take away the right of the citizens of Pakistan to access their beach. Under international and domestic law, the beach area is for public use and everyone, regardless of income, has the right to free access to the beach without obstacles or interference. This is a principle enshrined in the public trust doctrine.

9. We strongly oppose a development plan that will finish off the only natural multi-class recreational space available to Karachiites and as a result will further socially fragment an already fragmented city. The beach is a public spot we share with the many hundreds of thousands of our countrymen who visit Clifton Beach every week and belong to all classes and ethnic groups. A plan that shuts out a majority of Pakistan’s population is unacceptable.

10. We have already seen the “gentrification” of the beach by the imposition of a fee of Rs.10 per person as entry to Beachfront Park. This Park controls access to the beach and therefore prevents low and lower-middle income citizens from enjoying the beach. We can not allow any further such developments.

11. We are not against theme parks, marinas, expo centres and expensive hotels and condominiums, but it is our considered opinion that for environmental and social reasons the area between the coastal road and the high water mark should be encroachment free, construction free and accessible to the public free of cost as is the case in other South and South-East Asian countries and in the developed world.

12. We have had free and unrestricted access to Clifton Beach and future generations should also enjoy the same benefit.

13. We derive strength from the fact that 4,665 persons belonging to 73 CBOs and NGOs from all over Pakistan and individuals belonging to 89 low and lower middle income areas of Karachi have supported the concerns of the Sahil Bachao Movement whose concerns are similar to ours.


The Undersigned

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