What the duck!: Mayor promises big bucks for Karachi's Hill Park, but fails to deliver

With the lake drying up, scores of ducks have died of dehydration, says park caretaker

Photo Athar Khan/Oonib Azam September 07, 2018
Hill Park’s most popular attraction — a lake in the centre — has all but dried up due to the lethargy of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, leaving dehydrated and weary ducks to fend for themselves. PHOTOS: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Ever since he was elected mayor of Karachi, Wasim Akhtar has made several trips to Hill Park — a large municipal garden situated atop a hill surrounded by posh residential localities. Each time, Akhtar has made a show of announcing funds for the park's restoration and ordering its caretakers to refurbish it. The rhetoric, it seems has fallen on deaf ears.

Now, one of Hill Park's most popular attractions — a lake in the centre — has all but dried up due to the lethargy of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB). Hundreds of ducks who called the lake home for years look dehydrated and weary.

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"There's no water in the parks' lake for months now," one caretaker told The Express Tribune. "The ducks are dying but no one cares. No one feeds them properly," he lamented, adding that the ducks are barely surviving on the leftover scraps of food thrown by visitors in the lake.

Food is not the only thing thrown into the lake, however. The dry lake is littered with empty plastic bottles and their caps. The iron grill surrounding the lake is broken at several places, due to which, stray dogs and cats sometimes venture inside to prey on the ducklings and sometimes even kill a duck. "Besides, scores of ducks have died in the past few months due to dehydration," says the caretaker.

Over the last few months, Akhtar has visited the park several times. Each time has brought with a new promise of increased funding. A sizeable amount has been allocated in the current budget for the uplift of Hill Park, he said on one such occasion. On another visit, he promised to restore the lake and its adjoining water fall.

The park is spread over 61 acres and was constructed in the 1960s. It is still one of the few large recreational parks accessible to the city's 20 million citizens. What makes it stand out is the fact that it is situated on a small hill and grants an eye-catching view of its surroundings.

According to the park's in-charge, Muhammad Mujahid, several meetings have taken place between KMC and KWSB for the restoration of water supply to the park's lake, but nothing has come out of them. "The line is damaged due to which very less water reaches the lake," he explained.

KMC's deputy director for parks Muhammad Hanif said that only if the KWSB provided them water with enough pressure could the lake be filled to capacity. He explained that the park was on an upward slope and when the KWSB releases water, the nearby residents suck it up through their pumps.

On a question regarding stray dogs devouring the ducks, he said it wasn't possible since their caretakers remained inside the park round the clock.

KMC's Director-General for parks and horticulture, Afaq Ahmed also blamed the KWSB, saying the water supply company never fulfilled their requirements. As a temporary measure, he said, the KMC pumps water to the lake through water tankers. However, Nadeem believes that at least 400 water tankers would be required to fill up the lake.

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According to KMC's budget for 2015-16, Rs2.7 million were allocated for the lake's improvement and the same amount for laying an irrigation system at the park. The money does not seem to have been spent on the park at all.

Meanwhile, ornithologist at Karachi University's zoology department and a renowned bird expert, Dr Syed Ali Ghalib, believes that it is very difficult for a duck to survive without swimming in water. "It makes their life miserable even if they survive because they have a habit of swimming," he explained, adding that the ducks also feed on plants inside the lakes. He advised to relocate the ducks to parks where there is sufficient water for them.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 7th, 2018.

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