KARACHI: An underwater tunnel will be built inside the Clifton Aquarium to allow visitors to walk through the water tank and enjoy marine life up close, a senior official of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) said on Thursday.
The decision came as the KMC is all set to reopen the city’s largest public aquarium. The Clifton Aquarium has remained closed for the last six years as authorities struggled to shore up the finances to run it, according to director-general of KMC’s parks and horticulture Niaz Soomro.
The KMC has set aside Rs50 million in its budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year for renovation of the aquarium. However, the construction of the underwater tunnel would cost at least Rs300 million, predicts Soomro. “There are two options for us. We could either seek funds from the government or turn it into a joint venture with a private party.”
Notwithstanding the underwater tunnel, the Clifton Aquarium is also in dire need of renovation. Built in the 1960s, it is simply “outdated,” as Soomro put it. While it was supposed to be renovated after work along the Bagh Ibne Qasim was completed, it has remained closed since 2005. As of July, the half-built building that housed the aquarium was also in need of serious repairs, and a handwritten “Fish house is closed” sign hung on its entrance.
“We have decided to remodel it like other international aquariums, which have [underwater] tunnels. We intend to have the maximum possible number of fish species,” says Soomro.
Private sector expected to pitch in
The head of KMC’s enterprise and investment promotion department, Shoaib Waqar, says that the aquarium will most likely be rebuilt in a public-private partnership, but he is not sure what the ultimate cost will be. “We still need to work on the prefeasibility study.”
However, he appeared hopeful that private investors will be interested in the venture. “The location is very lucrative. We may also let them have a banquet hall and a food court,” said Waqar. The city administration is looking towards recovering the initial investment in up to 10 years, according to Waqar.
KMC has been actively trying to improve recreational facilities available for the city’s residents.
A pair of Bengal tigers, imported from Belgium, and white lions were unveiled at the Karachi Zoo on July 16. However, other public aquariums in the city, at the Karachi Zoological Garden and the Landhi-Korangi Zoo, are also in need of renovation.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2012.