KARACHI: An hour’s drive from the city’s centre, Mubarak Village is also Karachi, but not as much.
"It’s just a remote village," says Khudaganj, a social worker living in Mubarak Village. "We tell our relatives that we live in Karachi, but when they visit us from Balochistan they say it’s nothing close to Karachi."
Although Mubarak Village is also part of the metropolis, it survives without any facilities—no drinking water, electricity, gas, health, education... you name it. Cell phone coverage is limited and locals claim they have to climb a small hill to make a call.
The spot has resurfaced on the radar for picnic-loving Karachiites who are pulled to its beaches, picturesque landscape, and its proximity to Churna Island, a popular spot for scuba diving and snorkeling adventures.
Mubarak Village is like an oasis in the wilderness. The road leading to it passes through dusty terrain, with gusts of wind carrying sand to welcome each guest.
The place is a natural harbour with rocky hills at one side, with calming the water near the shore and allowing fishing boats to anchor. The water here is jewelled shades of blue and the sand has not yet lost its colour like the rest of industrialised Karachi.
But despite its natural beauty and growing popularity, basic facilities are yet to find their way to the coastline village, which falls under the authority of the Karachi West district. Perhaps most damning of all, despite being a fishing village, Mubarak Village has no jetty or pier for boats to dock.
Life in Mubarak Village is a struggle to survive from one day to the next, as locals put it.
Families say they have been living there since 1947, though land documentation records suggest the settlement itself existed for at least 200 years before partition. For the locals, fishing is their sole source of income. Karachiites show up in good numbers at the beach for snorkeling, occasionally bringing new business opportunities for the locals.
But Master Sattar, who teaches local children at his home for free, says “fishing is no longer a sufficient source of survival.” A few years ago, Sattar’s daily catch was enough to take to the city’s market at the end of the day, but today he has to wait for three or four days to catch the same amount of fish.
Money is only one of their problems. The residents don’t have gas, fresh produce or basic health services. "We have to buy wood everyday to cook food,” says Master Sattar, adding that it costs him Rs100 to Rs150 every day. No effort has been made to supply gas to the village.
One small building carries a sign on its door signifying it is a health facility, but Khudaganj says the place has never been functional. For food, there is only one option. A vending van comes once a week to sell days-old vegetables which they are forced to buy.
“We don’t have another option,” Master Sattar says. “Mostly, we eat lentils.”
Right now, the only way for residents of Mubarak Village to get clean drinking water, is to buy it from the government.
In 2000, during the regime of former president Pervaiz Musharraf, the Karachi Division was abolished and the city’s five districts were merged into a single City District Karachi. This was further divided into 10 towns and 178 union councils.
"It was then that Mubarak Village became part of Kemari Town and the City District Government Karachi initiated several development projects,” Khudaganj remembers. The first of these projects was to supply clean drinking water to the locality.
A few small dams were constructed by the then mayor, Mustafa Kamal, to store rain water. But these have run dry due to little or no rain in the past few years.
One such dam in Deya Lal Bhakar shows no signs of water. The dam is completely barren and sand and soil show traces of extraction— believed to be done by the local mafia.
The Pakistan People’s Party reversed the administrative legislation in 2011 and Mubarak Village once again became a rural suburb of District West. PPP funded and inaugurated a reverse osmosis (RO) plant in the Maripur area, to be built and managed by Pak Oasis Industries. The plant would provide clean drinking water to the villages located along Karachi’s coast.
However, the RO plant near Nasir Hotel is functioning as a water hydrant, charging money for the water it supplies through the water tankers sanctioned by the Sindh government under the orders of Abdul Qadir Patel.
"The tanker charges Rs1,500 for one trip,” says Master Sattar. A small household consumes at least two water tankers in a month.
However, a representative from Pak Oasis, Zulqarnain, says he is not aware of any malpractice. Zulqarnain says the water is supposed to be provided free of charge.
“If someone is selling water from the RO plant, we will ask the government to take action against them," he stresses.
According to Zulqarnain, electricity lines were also installed in the area a few years ago, but are useless since power supply never reached the village.
“The transformers and electricity polls are just rusting with each passing day," he adds.
Life in Mubarak Village is nothing near to what we know it as. Every day is a struggle, but the struggle is the village's everyday life.