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October '06: Splash of fantasy or nightmare?


Individualland spotlight is a monthly monitor on political affairs printed on the 17th of every month by individualland.com. Individualland would welcome reproduction & dissemination of the contents of this report after proper acknowledgment.

ASplash of fantasy or nightmare?
(October 2006)
There can be a number of topics for the October spotlight. October marked the one year anniversary of the horrific October 8th earthquake that brought misery and chaos to thousands. October is also the month that marks another year of the military coup of President General Pervaiz Mushraff. In day to day politics, this October also saw a significant meeting between Former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.However, for the October issue of Individu-spotlight, we wanted to focus on a project that under the fig leaf of development is raising serious legal and environmental questions in the minds of the citizens. The Karachi based Waterfront Development Project of the Defense Housing Authority. Feedback, as always, will be most welcome.

It is a project that brings to the forefront age old questions. How can development be done with minimum environmental damage? Development at whose cost and of course at the end of the day development for whom? Who is the ultimate beneficiary of the development? What is the cost and benefit analysis of the development like?

All these are questions that are being debated regarding the Waterfront Development Project launched by the Karachi's Defense Housing Authority. This project is being hailed as the best thing since sliced bread by it’s advocates and labeled an ``exploitation “ by it’s opponents. The project has been called a `splash of fantasy” by the Defense Housing Authority but bemoaned for it’s alleged adverse environmental effects by it’s opponents. What is the real picture?

Thousands of truckloads of earth fill are being moved over to the recently constructed Clifton Beach Road, destroying the track, to be dumped in the Arabian Sea. Piling work and construction has also started behind fences that warn the public to stay away for this project. Incidentally, legal experts point out that it is illegal as the citizens have a right to unfettered access to the sea and sea shore, under the public trust doctrine. The doctrine of public trust guarantees public access to beaches even if they are privately owned. . It holds that water and the sea shore belong to the people who have the unquestionable right to access and use for traditional purposes including fishing, swimming and recreation. Pakistani courts have dealt with the doctrine of public trust. It is well settled that natural resource like air, sea, water and forests are like a public trust and hence the name the Public Trust Doctrine.

In addition to the alleged violation of the Public Trust Doctrine as far as the work on the project is concerned, there are a number of other questions being raised about the project. They include legal and environmental questions around the project which is declared in the DHA Spring 2005 newsletter to be a 'splash of fantasy’.

Elaborating the newsletter declares that,' The 14 km of Karachi beach starting from the abandoned Casino to the Golf Course in Gizri Creek is set to undergo a process of development and beautification on a scale so grand that it is almost unbelievable." The 'unbelievable' part of this,’ splash of fantasy' includes five star hotels 'owning private segments of the beach' and private beaches with lagoon for residential blocks in Zone E.'

This 'splash of fantasy' is being opposed by environmentalists and civic activists who label it as being against the interests of the people. Besides declaring that it will further restrict recreation spaces for the less fortunate, many have claimed that it has serious adverse environmental, human and legal ramifications.

First of all, there is the question of whose land it is? The entire procedure of reclamation and construction on the edge of the sea suffers from numerous legal infirmities. Land reclaimed from the sea belongs to the Government of Sindh {as admitted by the DHA in its compromise with the BoR in Suit 778/92} while the Sindh government clearly and strongly maintained that the action of taking over land reclaimed from the sea would 'deprive the public at large from a place of entertainment and recreation'.

The entire sea and sea shore within fifty meters of the high water mark is within jurisdiction of the Port Qasim Authority who are the only authorities competent to carry out dredging or reclamation after conducting hydraulic studies.

In 1998, the environmental protection agency found that unauthorized and uncontrolled land reclamation by DHA in the same area had adversely effected the harbor regimes causing,' scouring of major land areas, shifting of stable contour lines,siltation of navigable channels and manifold increase in maintenance dredging.’ The ECC issued a directive prohibiting anyone, except KPT and PQA, from carrying out sea bed reclamation works. Additionally, as per Government of Sindh BoR/LU gazetted Notification dated 12-5-1975, the Sindh government cannot lease land within the area of the Port Trust or Sea Shore limits. Senior Urban planners associated with Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment have also questioned the DHA's power to give away land held in public trust for the fourteen kilometers beach Waterfront Property, especially as the land falls within the jurisdiction of the Karachi Port Trust or the Port Qasim Authority

The DHA is also facing legal action in other cases. These cases include the power/desalination plant in Phase VIII, the conversion of Usmani Park into a residential and commercial plaza and the establishment of McDonalds in Phase V Extension.

While on the legal questions raised about the project, it is important again to mention the public trust doctrine. In a judgment, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has interpreted Article 9 of the Constitution, or the right to life in a positive manner. It enjoins the state to take positive steps to promote the quality of life of all its citizens. Article 26 (1) of the Constitution provides for access to places of public entertainment or resorts as a fundamental right. Moreover the Coastal Management Plan for Karachi 2000 advocated that no development should take place between the coastal roads and the Karachi beaches.DHA is already violating this provision at least.

Moreover, the DHA is discharging sewage into the Clifton Bay which is an example of its lack of ability to manage the solid waste along the beach. DHA's further development is going to add enormously to both the sewage and solid waste management issues. This of course has adverse effects on the marine life. Residents of the fishing communities will also be adversely effected by the project. These communities include that of Ibrahim Haidery, Akbar Shah Goth, Goth Haji Azia, Chashma Goth, Rehri Goth and Jumma Goth .There are also other ecological aspects of the proposed project that raises some questions.

Speaking to Individualland, the Director of the Urban Resource Center Muhammad Younas declared, 'Karachi has had a number of cyclones between 1920 and 1932.In 1985,a cyclone bypassed Karachi causing large scale destruction and inundation of areas in the West of Karachi. Mr Younas furthermore said that a description of the 1902 cyclone was given in the Sindh Gazetteer 1906 and describes how the entire coastal regions and cities were flooded by enormous waves from the sea.

The DHA in it’s defense has declared that `` some land parcels are being utilized for residential and commercial purposes because if they are not then they will be either encroached upon or degraded as an entity.” The Public Relations Officer of DHA, Lt. Col. ( r ) Rafat Naqvi in a written statement declared,`` DHA waterfront development comprise residential ,commercial and recreational plans. Commercial plazas have been only allowed on extreme ends while nucleus consists of board walks, amphitheatres, jogging tracks, promenades, water parks, sand beaches which will be open and there will be unregulated beach accesses interspersed with state of the art facilities. “Of course, these facilities will be accessible to only those who can afford it. However,Individualland would like to submit that even keeping aside the economic aspect, the questions of environment and legal aspect still need to be answered.

Snapshot of the issues related to the Defence Housing Authority’s (DHA) Project

1. LEGAL ASPECTS

1.1 Doctrine of Public Trust

The public trust doctrine principle guarantees public access to beaches even if they are privately owned

The DHA project is a clear violation of the doctrine of public trust principle. By building commercial complexes, monumental towers, amphitheatres, amusement parks, food courts, expo complexes, residential and hotels facilities, motels and residences, all for “aristocratic living” bang on the water front, the beach is being denied access to the public.

1.2 Environmental Laws

The project is in violation of Section 12 of the Environmental Protection Act 1997 and also in violation of Section 4 of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency Regulations 2000. The project must have an environmental assessment under the laws as the beaches are also included as sensitive areas.

1.3 Authority of the DHA

The authority of the DHA is to be questioned to give away land held in public trust. The stretch of 14 kms falls within the jurisdiction limits of KPT or PQA.

2. ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

2.1 Sewage and Waste Water

The DHA is already discharging sewage into Clifton Bay. It is also incapable of managing the solid waste issue along the beach. Its proposed development is going to add enormously to both the sewage and solid waste management issues.

2.2 Bio-diversity and the Natural Environment

To preserve bio-diversity and the natural environment development between the coastal road and the beach is not undertaken anywhere in the world except in isolated locations. It is because of this concern that the Coastal Management Plan for Karachi, which was part of the Karachi Development Plan 2000, advocated that no development should take place between the coastal roads and the Karachi beaches. The DHA is already violating this provision.

After the DHA project is implemented the people of Karachi will not only be unable to access the beach in its natural condition, but will not longer be able to see the wild life which visits the beaches during the winter season.

3. SOCIO-ECONOMIC ISSUES

3.1 Fishing Communities

Since times immemorial the residents of Ibrahim Haideri, Akbar Shah Goth, Goth Haji Azia, Chashma Goth, Rehri Goth, Juma Goth and other settlements have fished in Clifton Bay. They still do. The denying of the shore to them and the affect on marine life will deprive them of their income and livelihoods.
 

 

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