KARACHI: The city’s virtually untapped ecotourism market is finally getting a slight boost with the addition of speedboat tours of mangroves at China Creek from Port Grand.
“This is a great opportunity for people to experience the rich environment which Karachi provides,” said the president of Port Grand Limited, Shahid Firoz. “They can see the history of China Creek along with the environmental sights of beautiful mangroves.”
Starting from today, the tours will cost Rs400 per person for a ride. The cost includes complementary entrance fee to the rest of Port Grand which is usually priced at a redeemable Rs300.
The 15-minute tour on the speedboat takes you along China Creek but does not actually pass through the mangroves. It is visually appealing but perhaps a little less exciting.
The environmental degradation of the water around Port Grand was evident when one of the tour boats ended up floating aimlessly around because a discarded fishing net snagged its propeller.
At the moment there are only three boats with a capacity of six to eight people. But the management intends to increase the size of the fleet and add other activities on the water as well.
But the present condition is a far cry from what it used to be like. “Before we took over this area it was filled with filth and used to stink. But now the water is relatively clean,” said Firoz.
The water around Port Grand is cleaned round the clock. The staff on speedboats can be seen netting all sorts of garbage from the water while on speedboats.
But according to the media coordinator, Ammar Haider, the staff couldn’t interfere with affairs of the temple because of the ritual of disposal of ashes in the water.
The chairman of the Karachi Port Trust, Aslam Hayat, was the chief guest at the inauguration ceremony of eco-tours on Saturday. He announced that KPT’s dine-in cruises will also start from Juna Shah Bandar soon. These will be the first of their kind activity in Karachi open for the public.
Firoz said that the aim of Port Grand was to create a clean and safe environment affordable for everyone. “There are boat and marine clubs here but they are exclusive. Our aim is to provide this environment to relatively less affluent people.”
However, calling the activity ecotourism might not altogether be correct since the money earned will not be used to conserve the mangroves. But according to Firoz, a lot of people aren’t even aware of what mangroves actually are. These tours give them a chance to learn and experience them. He said that he was ready to work with conservationists to help save the mangroves and clean the water. But for that the people have to be galvanized first. With the number of visitors coming to Port Grand reaching just under a million only this year, the potential for awareness campaigns seems huge.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2012.