Driving along the city’s expansive coastline, you will come across Mubarak Village, a picturesque beach located around 40 kilometres away from the city.
For the residents of the main city areas, the appeal of this area is its natural beauty, far away from the tangled electricity wires interfering with our view of the horizon. But the residents of this village will tell you that beauty is only skin deep.
The village lacks nearly all the basic necessities of modern life. The only paved road in the entire village is in fact a sewage line. The main road that connects the village is well-made but as soon as you swerve into the village, the roads disappear.
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There are some electric poles that were erected around two years ago but were never connected to the national grid despite a power plant being located nearby Given the massive power outages hampering life in the rest of the city, it is perhaps better that the Mubarak Village residents have started using alternative sources of energy. Some of them use solar-powered chargers for their cellphones, lamps and torches.
One thing that fuels the men and women of this village is their daily dose of gutka. People of all ages and both genders chew on this mix of betel leaf and tobacco round the clock and gutka wrappers litter the otherwise pristine sand along the shore.
“Around 95 per cent of the men from this village chew gutka,” said Sarfaraz Haroon, a local leader. “Even the women and children have started picking up this bad habit.”
The people of Mubarak Village lead a simple life. Most of the men go fishing early in the morning and usually come back with the day’s catch by noon, when they sell it to customers from the main city centre. There are a total of 150 fishing boats in the village but only 10 of them are capable of venturing out into the deep sea. Business is not well for the fishermen.
“I left at 8pm and was unable to catch even a single fish,” said Shahdad, a fisherman who had just returned from sea. He pointed out that this was the fourth day that he had come back empty-handed.
“Bad fishing practices have destroyed business for everyone,” he lamented. He was referring to the practice of trash fishing, where larger ships use prohibited nets that harm the school of fish, causing their numbers to deteriorate in a particular region.
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Unable to make ends meet with fishing, many men rely on local tourism. They rent their boats to people coming in for scuba diving, fishing and other water sports. “We are able to earn Rs1,000 to Rs1,500 from such customers,” said another fisherman, Muhammad Yousuf.
The community that earns most of its livelihood from fishing, its people hardly eat fish themselves. Their main diet comprises lentils and potatoes, the latter giving them the energy to perform hard labour that fishing requires. “We don’t even have the resources to buy fresh vegetables,” said a resident, Badal Baloch. “Neither do they grow here nor can anyone afford to go to the city every day to purchase them.”
In 2010, the provincial government had announced that Mubarak Village will be transformed into a modern village. Five years later, the village lacks even the most basic facilities. “The powerful ones want to occupy our lands in the name of development,” complained Sarfaraz. “Look at the situation of other areas near the beaches. We won’t allow them to disturb our cultural and social values.”
He admitted, however, that the local leaders may consider allowing certain schemes to be set up as long as they provide them all basic facilities.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2015.