KARACHI : The Sindh government and senior officials of the Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC) rushed to the Sea View beach on Tuesday after a tweet regarding hospital waste dumped on the beach went viral. Within a few hours of the tweet, heavy machinery and sanitary workers cleaned the shore.
The action was taken after Shaniera Akram, the wife of former Pakistan cricket star, Wasim Akram, posted a number of photos and a video of hospital waste dumped at various points along the beach. “I have stayed silent for too long. Every TV channel needs to be running this now. You have a duty of care to protect the lives of the people of Karachi and tell them Clifton beach is totally unsafe for everyone,” she tweeted.
In another tweet, she asked authorities why the beach was open. Sharing pictures of the waste, Akram pointed out that hundreds of open needle syringes, used vials and other items spread along more than one kilometre of the shore. “Clifton beach, at this moment, is extremely dangerous and needs to be shut down,” she demanded.
Responding to her concerns, the Karachi police rushed to the site and cordoned off the area till the municipal authorities arrived and started cleaning the beach.
The government’s view
Sindh Chief Minister’s Adviser on Environment Barrister Murtaza Wahab arrived at the site with at least a dozen men in tow. He refuted Akram’s claims of a mass of medical waste, saying there were only around a dozen ‘used syringes’. “It was a negative tweet,” he said, about Akram’s tweet. “We will ensure the hospitals’ waste is disposed of properly,” he added.
Inspecting the cleanliness effort at the beach, Wahab said that the strip did not fall under the Sindh government’s jurisdiction. He said that the Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi was responsible for the beach and should look into the matter of waste being disposed of at site. “But we immediately responded and we will ensure that hospital waste is disposed of properly,” he pledged, adding that his department will write letters to all hospitals, directing them to abide by the law.
The provincial government, which almost seems immune to the citizens’ woes, may have underplayed the number of syringes at the Clifton Beach, but they haven’t even given a moment’s notice to the hundreds of used syringes, medical waste and industrial waste that finds its way along the coastal belt near settlements such as Ibrahim Hyderi, Rehri Goth and Latt Basti.
“For over a decade, hundreds of syringes are being dumped outside our villages but no one takes any action,” complained Ali Mohammad, a resident of Rehri Goth. He said that the residential areas are filled with a perpetual unpleasant odour, courtesy of the waste from Bhains Colony that gets thrown into the water. Mohammad believes most of the syringes and other garbage is dumped into the waterways without any check and ultimately finds its way into the sea. “We find these syringes several kilometres out in the sea,” he pointed out, adding that they have hurt many villagers and visitors in the past.
“All resources were used and the beach was cleaned within a few hours because a powerful person tweeted,” laughed another resident, Akhtar Turk. “None of us are that powerful nor can our tweets grab the attention of the authorities,” he added.
The residents complained that that syringes and other waste usually makes its way to Moosani Pardho, Milkae Pardo, Usman Nimo Jo Bunder, Ghafoor Jamote Jo Bunder, Latt Basti, Rehri Goth and other localities.
The Sindh government has failed to implement the law in letter and spirit, remarked one resident. The Sindh Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), which is responsible for implementing the law, has hardly bothered to visit the most affected areas.
“The law is there, but it is not being implemented – deliberately,” said a top official working under Wahab. “Not a single minister has ever tried to understand the environment,” he added.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, the official said that it was not their responsibility to properly dispose of the garbage. He added, however, that the SEPA must implement the law if the waste disturbs the environment and harms human health.