The popularity of Manora Beach Front Park has led to unprecedented littering and pollution
any of us take public space for granted because it is always available, accessible to everybody and serves its goal of allowing people to meet and interact. Designers typically view a space via the lens of user need, but the dynamics of the user’s socio-economic, behaviour and blasé attitude somehow outweigh the designer’s perception. Any architectural design intervention is guided by four key stages. Namely, conceptual development, planning and designing, execution/ construction and operation and maintenance (O&M). The process becomes increasingly challenging when it comes to designing a public facility in an urban context. Designers must address the requirements of the general public while taking into account their attitudes toward utilisation of public space. The way the general public uses, misuses and abuses a public facility differs depending on the intervention’s target population.
People shape their surroundings. People-space interactions that take place indoors are sometimes less apparent than those that take place outdoors. People arrive at an outdoor public space with a lot of their belongings and have a significant potential to harm its micro and macro environment, especially if they have a careless attitude toward its use and maintenance. Excursions necessitate a great deal of organisation and management, but often leave a story behind if no planning has been done to address, reduce and mitigate the causes of litter.
Manora Beach Front Park is one such public space. Each careless user is polluting the coastline and the peninsula. The beach front park is a relatively recent introduction to facilitate picnickers on the Manora beach. The park was sponsored by the Sindh government, developed by Karachi Development Authority and has been under the management of Manora Cantonment Board (MANCB) till date. The park’s construction cost Rs 650 million and has received an overwhelming public response. Visited predominantly by families of all ages, Manora Beach Park is the new favourite picnic spot, exhibiting a collage of multi-ethnic visitors from Karachi and beyond. The facility attracts a large number of people, especially on weekends and public holidays. The visitors drastically change the landscape of the peninsula.
Physically, the park has a powerful visual impact. The entrance attracts visitors on the beach front road. The park is right on the beach, with all of the planning and activities geared to capturing the tranquil sea vista and bustling beach activity. The gazebos are well designed to visually separate the public space from the private space, while capturing the cool air and scenic sea view. The park offers a diverse range of recreational opportunities for people of all ages and genders. Essential amenities such as cafes, a variety of sitting areas, male and female changing rooms, washrooms, and a children’s play area are available. These are maintained by Manora Cantonment Board (MANCB).
The design has the flexibility needed to meet the demands of varied users. The steps going down to the shore are a popular gathering spot for parties and families who can customise these by spreading a mat for their comfort. Families have been seen enjoying their home-cooked meals in a pleasant public setting beside the sea. The facility is physically accessible by both Manora entrances, including those using private vehicles to enter the peninsula through the Sands Pit Road and/ or boats to the Keemari jetty. There is a para-transit service that costs Rs 30 per person to get to the site for individuals who have their first station at the civil jetty. These Suzuki rickshaws drop off guests at the park’s gate. The park is all-pedestrian within, allowing for seamless and safe pedestrian mobility.
The MANCB can be credited with maintaining the park operations with strong regulations and strict checks for quality control and provision of services by all vendors bound by a quality service bond. Despite the fact that public park administration is a separate field of specialisation, these have proved effective in efficiently managing this park. They are quick to respond to concerns that arise as a result of the enormous number of visitors, particularly on holidays and weekends. A team works tirelessly to maintain the park, provide security, regulate vendors/ service providers and monitor all activity inside the park.
The economic viability of Manora has been greatly impacted. It has significantly increased the employment status of the local populace. The locals have discovered new sources of income by starting small formal/ informal enterprises of their own. These include food kiosks, transportation services and recreation. The park has increased the income of those who provide recreational facilities such as hawkers and horse/ camel riders. Locals have a significant chance to capitalise on Manora’s unique products and cuisines, such as seashell crafts and fish dishes, thereby promoting its unique cultural and gastronomic identity. The park has attracted national and international companies, providing new investment opportunities for domestic and international investors.
In terms of social interaction, the park has opened up Manora to a cultural exchange, promoting local culture and traditions to a wider audience. Social media has played an important role in giving it a positive image. The platform can also be used to raise awareness and educate the public on the importance of taking care of the environment.
The park’s planners most likely did not foresee such a huge public response. As a result the covered sitting spaces are inadequate. These are critical given the sunny climate. The shade on the benches is contextually inappropriate and ineffective. The main entrance features a well-designed ramp for individuals with mobility challenges, wheelchair drivers and parents with strollers, but the park platform has only steps to reach the coastline and there is no a ramp. This restricts access to the beach. The enormous volume of vehicular traffic was almost certainly unanticipated so that the allotted parking space for visitors is insufficient. As a result, private vehicles and buses are parked in an alternate parking lot, a football stadium, which is a considerable walk from the main gate. Although the park has two entrances, the one on Major Manora Drive is more frequently used by the public due to its placement on the main axis where a single gate is used to enter and exit, making it incredibly difficult to administer. The park’s design speaks of a lack of understanding of public pedestrian mobility, with only one pick-up and drop-off point, generating congestion and chaos at the main entry and the adjacent road. The public is also taken aback by the various tolls that add to the cost and waiting time at security checkpoints and ticket counters.
The large number of visitors attracted to the park is straining the peninsula’s infrastructure. This includes roads, electricity, sewerage, water supply, and solid waste management. The park opens its gates to users with a token of 50 rupees per person. Litter and solid waste are a major threat to the peninsula’s delicate ecology. The visitors’ lack of ownership of the natural environment is its principal cause. Despite having multiple regularly placed bins and notice boards, the park and the shore are swamped with packaging and plastic debris. Although the MANCB has appointed a sizable number of staff for solid waste collection and disposal, it is humanly impossible to meet the increasing demand. This is a reflection of the public’s lack of education regarding proper garbage disposal. The swirling winds from the sea create tornadoes of waste, destroying the beauty of the areas and negatively affecting the environment. This necessitates high maintenance costs and gives the location an overall negative image.
Public spaces are designed to meet the needs of a city’s residents. A proactive, compassionate approach is demanded in return. One of the most basic human needs is cleanliness and hygiene. The visitors must be informed about their significance. People should be educated on sustainable models of carrying goods. All plastic and food waste must be disposed of in designated containers; cigarettes, packaging trash and other items should not be thrown on the ground or on the beach. Diapers and similar items should not be flushed down the toilet. The leftovers or packaging garbage can be carried back home for proper disposal, alleviating the pressure on Manora’s solid waste management system. Campaigns should be launched in schools and on social media, emphasising the importance of a clean environment, teaching children and adults about pollution. Incentives can be designed to encourage citizens to participate in beach clean-up campaigns and join local groups. As citizens, we may not be able to control larger environmental contaminants, but by adopting small responsible habits, we can definitely contribute to the long-term sustainability of public spaces that are designed for us.
The authors are faculty at the Department of Architecture and Planning, NED University of Engineering and Technology.