The thousands of beach enthusiasts who make their way down to Sea View every Eid will have to spend time on the shore as the authorities continue their ban on swimming.
After the tragedy on Eidul Fitr when more than 39 people drowned at Sea View, the government imposed Section 144 on the beach. Since then, very few people have been visiting the site for recreation resulting in a loss of business for the many vendors there.
“Section 144 will be strictly implemented and the civic administration will be present to stop the visitors from going into the water,” said commissioner Shoaib Siddiqui, during a meeting at his office on Wednesday.
Officials of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), Defence Housing Authority (DHA), Port Qasim Authority, Karachi Port Trust, Pakistan Meteorological Department, and other relevant departments are on board to make sure no bathing is allowed in the sea. Warning signs, precautionary banners, lifeguards, watchtowers and ambulances will all be in place.
The commissioner added that those who want to enjoy on the shore will not be punished. “Section 144 is only for bathing in the waters,” he explained, adding that they will call the navy marines and coast guards in case of an emergency.
The DHA vigilance team will be managing security from McDonald’s to Do Darya, said the DHA spokesperson, adding that they will deploy lifeguards, rescue boats, ambulances, etc. “We must ensure that no one goes into the water but they enjoy walking along the beach,” he said.
Meanwhile, the KMC will be responsible for the area between Dolmen Mall and Shireen Jinnah Colony, said its senior municipal director Masood Alam. The KMC will deploy at least 10 lifeguards and rescue boats, he added. “With the help of the police, KMC and DHA hope to manage the situation,” he said, adding that Edhi volunteers and the fire department will also help out.
Meanwhile, the beachgoers are unhappy with the ban on bathing which has been in place for nearly two months now. “The Eidul Fitr incident was really sad but it was the failure of the administration,” claimed Nazir Ahmed. “They [the government] had two months. Why didn’t they take steps to improve beach safety?” Ahmed felt they should be allowed to go into the water as long as they follow all safety measures.
Earlier, the commissioner’s office had announced that they are joining hands with Aman Foundation to make the beach more secure. The private organisation would have installed watchtowers and hired lifeguards in exchange for their signboards placed on the beach. “Work on that project is in process,” said Siddiqui, adding that they have yet to finalise the deal with all stakeholders. He hoped that the beach would be open once again in a week or two.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2014.