Environmental pollution once again threatens a beach at the far end of Sindh’s coastline
Situated at the meeting point of Sindh and Balochistan’s coastline, Mubarak Village is once again faced with catastrophic pollution. A ship loaded with coal got stuck at the beach in the hills near the village on March 11. A similar disaster had occurred in the area on October 26, 2018 when a ship dumped oil into the sea near Charna Island and badly contaminated the coastal area.
Residents of the village, which houses mostly fishermen, said they were worried as the ship remained stuck in the hills two weeks after it had strayed off course. The fishermen fear that if oil starts leaking from the ship it will pollute the entire beach.
Located 30 kilometres west of Karachi, Mubarak Village has one of the finest beaches famous for surfing and fishing. It lacks services like electricity and regular safe water supply. It has a population of more than 10,000 people, most of them fishermen.
“It’s a barge, used for loading and unloading coal from large ship,” says Sarfaraz Haroon, a councillor from Mubarak Village. According to him, a Chinese company had used the barge for transferring coal to a power plant near HUBCO for producing electricity at the 1,320 megawatts project.
“A point near the famous scuba-diving picnic point — Charna Island — is currently being used to offload imported,” says Haroon, adding that the barges are used to carry smaller quantities of coal to the nearby power house.
He says loading of coal from this area has increased recently. This has affected the environment of the beaches, especially surroundings of the Churna Island, a major biodiversity hotspot. The commercial activity poses a threat to marine life and has affected the livelihood of local fishermen.
Only a kilometre away starts the coastal belt of the Balochistan province, Khuda Ganj Shad, a local fisherman tells TNS. The Chinese power company is located in Balochistan.
At least seven ships carrying imported coal have been unloaded in this area over the past 20 days, he says, adding that a barge is working day and night. “The activity has badly affected the marine life around Charna Island,” he laments.
A variety of fish, lobsters and shrimps have been traditionally caught in the area. Shad says pollution by coal and oil could affect the catch.
He says the fishermen have been paid no compensation. He also says they have still not recovered from the 2018 oil spill that badly affected the marine ecology and their livelihoods. “Old memories still haunt us.” He says the fishermen had suffered huge losses but the government had neither compensated them nor held anybody responsible for the disaster although it was widely reported in the media.
No money has been paid in compensation to the people of the area. Fishermen have still not recovered from the 2018 oil spill that had badly affected the marine ecology and their livelihoods.
The China Power Hub Generation Company (CPHGC) initially said: “on the night of March 10, a non-motorised barge, owned and operated by one of its third-party contractors was anchored in the open sea at the CPHGC trans-shipment area. The barge was not operational at the time and had only a residual quantity of coal.
“During the night, as a result of stormy weather, high swells and winds blowing at 35 to 40 nautical miles per hour, the barge snapped free from its mooring and drifted away from its anchorage, towards the neighbouring shores. No damage was caused to any man or material, nor to the surrounding marine ecosystem.”
“Using tugboats, we are in the process of pulling the barge back to its place,” says the company statement, adding that an investigation has been initiated and it is reviewing the contractor’s safety protocols to ensure that such an incident does not take place again.
Finally, on March 26, the barge was pulled into the sea and taken back to its anchorage near the power plant.
A senior official of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency said a departmental team had visited the site and viewed the situation. “We have not found any sign of an impact on marine life.”
Kamal Shah, a spokesperson for Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) tells TNS that in 2018 an oil bunker had dumped oil near Mubarak Village destroying marine life on a large scale.
Local fishermen say prized lobsters and other precious marine species have disappeared as pollution levels have increased around the beach.
Shah says the government should start strict monitoring of the movement of coal and oil vessels. He says the Forum has serious reservations on the cargo operations around Mubarak village and Charna Island.