After more than six years, the renovation of Clifton Aquarium will finally begin in the next few weeks.
The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) has approved a sum of Rs100 million to be used for the aquarium, which is the only such public facility in Karachi.
There are two other public aquariums in Karachi. One is at Karachi Zoological Garden and has 28 small fish tanks – similar to the ones usually found at homes. The other one is at the Landhi-Korangi Zoo. Here as well, the glass enclosures are small and cannot carry large species of fish.
“The aquarium has been in a state for neglect for years,” said Niaz Soomro, KMC’s director of parks and horticulture. “However, all the civil work is complete. We just need the auxiliary equipment, such as a generator.”
“We were waiting for money to be approved,” Soomro said. “Now that it has been done, I am personally going do see how we can make the project interesting for the people.”
At the moment, the half-built building which housed the aquarium is in shambles. “The fish house is closed,” reads a hand-written sign on the entrance. The maintenance equipment and facilities, such as water pumps, have been dismantled. The fish ponds evaporated long ago.
No one can tell that water creatures could have thrived here once.
Clifton Aquarium was built in the 1960s. It was closed in 2005 after renovations began in Bagh Ibne Qasim. The plan was to upgrade the aquarium as well, said the former director-general parks, Liaquat Ali Khan. Though the park was renovated and opened to the public, the aquarium remained closed.
“In places like Dubai and Singapore, you have large aquariums in shopping malls,” said Khan.
“But there is no such thing here. This is the only state-run aquarium in the city.”
Fish connoisseur Irfan Mirza said that maintaining an aquarium is harder than building it. “I remember the Clifton Aquarium and it was quite big. An aquarium that size needs seawater and the quality of water at the beach is poor.”
A pipeline must be laid down to bring in seawater to the aquarium and this will be very costly, according to Mirza. “There is also a problem of breeding fish which is the job of experts,” he said. “They must be available round the clock and should also take care of proper lighting and the proper levels of magnesium and iodine in the fish tanks.”
But the KMC officials said that raising revenue from the project itself is difficult. Like the Karachi zoo, the people were charged only Rs10 for visiting the aquarium. However, officials said that such facilities are never self-sustaining because the general public cannot afford to pay more than Rs15. “The people who come to Ibne Qasim Park earn between Rs8,000 and Rs10,000 per month. This is why we don’t have any entry charges. How can we charge more for the aquarium then?” asked one official.
But the experts hope that big corporations and universities can be persuaded to adopt the aquarium. “Whenever it is finished it will need to be marketed properly,” Mirza added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2012.