Karachi is known among other things for its beaches that attract tourists as well as locals in search of recreational public spaces to spend their leisure time. Of late, however, Karachi’s beaches figure less in reports on recreational facilities and more in incidents of drowning of picnickers.
The latest is the tragic deaths of 12 members of a family on Saturday. The incident took place as two people ventured into the sea, despite a ban on swimming. As they drowned, at least 20 others jumped into the sea to save them. Only 10 of them could survive.
The count of those who have lost their lives while swimming at various Karachi beaches since June this year has crossed 30. All of this in spite of the ban imposed on swimming at beaches.
With frequent power outages amid unbearable heat and virtually no other pastime facilities — the beach becomes an ideal spot for Karachi residents of all backgrounds and social classes to spend a few hours of leisure. Residents head to the beach as the ban is seldom enforced, and police jurisdictions remain poorly delineated.
If the ban for beach-goers was instituted for the purposes of preventing people from going to the beach and preventing future deaths at the beach, it has clearly failed miserably on both counts.
It seems that government agencies have become used to finding the easy way out in most instances. Rather than improving public services and enforcing safety standards, the administration just finds it convenient to ban swimming across the board.
Local authorities should have put the necessary infrastructure in place a long time ago. This would include trained and capable lifeguards, spine boards, inflated life rings, rescue tubes and defibrillators, first aid kits, as well as an ambulance on standby. It is sad and frustrating to see that Karachi residents who no longer fear death because of politically motivated violence that has been rife in the city do so now because of failure of their civic agencies in providing viable infrastructure.*
Published in Daily Times, September 11th 2017.