Some of us who have been to Karachi, must have seen a bit of sea and the coast. Kemari Jetty is a popular place for the first-timers who’d want to have some fun at sea. There are plenty of boats and some old-fashioned ferries, which can take the sea-goers and passengers from Kemari to Manora Island and back. Apart from the sensation of going out to sea, one meets heart-wrenching scenes at Kemari as he or she steps into that place. Kemari Jetty and the boats’ basin around it present a look that is hard to imagine for any sane individual having a slightest regard to cleanliness and environment care. The scenes, of various spots, right from the Jetty’s approach to the boats berths, are no less than a horrific reality reflecting a society sans any idea of environment protection. Appalled by the scenes as one visits this place, makes us question: who on earth would want something as unthinkable as in this place, which is supposed to be a gateway for recreation at sea. It is difficult to accept but such filthy and unspeakably disgusting places have become ‘trademarks of our recognition’, though I may choose to deny or justify in whatever manner I can. A view of this place makes any person, with balanced thoughts, speechless when he is asked by someone, “can you show me around your Kemari boats’ basin?” Places like Kemari Jetty, nonetheless, are mere symptoms of deep rooted perennial problems, which need to be addressed to have our environment clean and the seas healthier. As history tells us that the great Akkadian Empire of Mesopotamia was destroyed because the people did not care about their environment as they abused the natural resources. If we keep ignoring the environment and let the natural habitat decay, we might be in for repeating the history.

As per United Nations ‘Human Development Index’, Pakistan finds its place at 147 out of 188 countries. This position is considered ‘low’ on the development index. Pakistan’s mean years of schooling are 5.1 years, which suggests a sorry state of our education focus. World Health Organization puts Pakistan at 122 out of 190 on the ‘World’s Health System’, the 1st being France. On the United Nation’s health related ‘Sustainable Development Goals’, Pakistan has been ranked 149 out of 188 countries, while sharing the score of 38 with Bangladesh and Mauritania, which is six places behind India and way behind Iran. Pakistan’s 38.8 % population suffers from ‘Multi-dimensional Poverty’, i.e., deprivation in education, health and living standards. These are highly disappointing figures; but the question is: why do all these figures matter in our discussion of the environment? These, in one way or the other, have to do with the state that one encounters at Kemari Jetty. Deplorable condition of our seas and rivers is a direct consequence of lack of transparency, education and healthcare in our society.

According to a Serbian largest user-contributed database analyst, Numbeo, Karachi is the 8th most polluted city in the world out of 277 cities surveyed. Young-Woo Park, Regional Director and Representative of the United Nations Environment Program, issued a report in 2013 titled “The Environment and Climate Change Outlook of Pakistan”, which highlights very disturbing realities we have not taken care of as yet. The report considers Pakistan’s high population growth rate to be the first and foremost factor in environment degradation. Pakistan’s population grew from a mere 32.50 million in 1947 to 207.74 million in 2017. At this explosive rate (2.5 million/year) we would be touching 300 million by 2050! It is not just only increase in overall population, but the associated trend is something worrisome, which the report posits, “the phenomenon of the rapidly growing population in Pakistan is also being accompanied by increasing concentration of population in the urban areas. The country’s urban population multiplied more than ten-fold during 1950-2012 period, compared to this, the total population increased over five-fold.

The trend of growing urbanization has also witnessed concentration of urban population in a few major cities. Karachi, the largest city of the country has 20 per cent of the total urban population, followed by Lahore and Faisalabad with another 20 per cent. Rawalpindi, Multan, Hyderabad, Gujranwala and Peshawar together hold another 14 per cent, while the remaining 46 per cent of the urban population lives in about 400 relatively small town and cities. The eight largest cities have been growing at the rate of over 3 per cent per year, and according to projected trends this growth rate will continue in the next decade”. The report goes on to point out, “from the environmental stand point, the phenomenal increase in the population of Pakistan, whether total or urban, without corresponding expansion in basic amenities of life and infrastructure has exposed a majority of people to conditions, which are far from satisfactory. This can deteriorate further in the absence of well-conceived and properly planned corrective actions in the years to come.” The planners have failed to see this trend and there was no mechanism, project or a way forward to ‘deal’ with this population explosion and its fallout on the major cities. New cities should have been established thereby taking loads off these metropolises suffering from endless municipal and management imbroglios.

It doesn’t take much to understand the insurmountable filth in Karachi has no solution unless people are relocated to reduce stress on the city’s capacity and resources.

(To be continued)