Citizens not free to go to the beach on Independence Day

Met officials, experts blame wind speeds for the drowning.



KARACHI:


All beaches in the city have been declared off-limits till Sunday and the provincial government also plans to do so on August 14, The Express Tribune learnt on Friday.


The government will contact marine experts to identify the reasons why the sea has been so rough this year, with over three dozen people drowning in just two days.

Karachi Commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui said that the ban on visiting the beaches will be lifted on Sunday, adding that the ban has been imposed to ensure that there are no further casualties. This ban is in addition to a ban imposed under Section 144 that prevents citizens from going into the water till August 27.

“There will be a complete ban on August 14 that will prevent citizens from even visiting the beaches,” the commissioner said. “High tides will continue during the monsoon season and people will want to visit the beach on Independence Day as it will be a public holiday, so the risk of drowning will be high.”

The commissioner is not aware as to why so many people drowned during the two days. “We will contact marine experts to identify the reasons behind the drowning,” he said. “We will also consider their recommendations if they want us to do something.”

Compensation

The Sindh government has announced compensation for the families whose loved ones drowned at the beach. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah announced Rs200,000 as compensation for the families of each of the deceased on Friday. The Eid Milan programme scheduled at the Chief Minister House on Friday was deferred and all other PPP Eid parties were also postponed on the directives of Pakistan Peoples party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

The rough seas

According to the Pakistan Meteorological Department, the sea was rough on the first and second days of Eidul Fitr but it is a normal phenomenon during the monsoon season.

“There is nothing unusual about the sea being rough during monsoon but the speed of wind on the two days of Eid was unusually high,” said an official of the met office.

The high tides are the result of the increased wind speed and according to the met office, wind speed was between 27 to 30 knots on both days.

“The sea is always rough from July to August,” confirmed former director-general and National Climate Change Expert for the United Nations Development Programme, Dr Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry. “That is why the government always imposes Section 144 during this season.”

Dr Chaudhry confirmed that there wasn’t any cyclonic activity in the sea. “The sea weather is not constant,” he said. “The sea may seem calm but within a few hours the tide may suddenly become rough. This has nothing to do with climate change and has always been this way.”

Senator Taj Haider felt that Sea View has become more dangerous due to human interference. “The change in wind direction due to construction on the beach, the building of the Marine Drive barrier wall and the disappearance of sand dunes has steepened the gradient of the ocean bed,” he said. “Sea View is now a killer beach, especially during Monsoon, even for those who are proficient swimmers.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2014.

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