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THE barges in action at the Naval Dockyard on Friday.—Photo by the writer
THE barges in action at the Naval Dockyard on Friday.—Photo by the writer

KARACHI: Fruit juice boxes, empty chips packets, plastic bags and cold drink bottles could be seen floating on the waters at the Naval Dockyard on Friday, though remedy soon came in the form of three Marine Debris Collection Barges (MDCB).

As one of them pushed the debris in the direction of the other two the water was soon looking clean as the mesh chain of the barges picked it all up to deposit it into a watertight collection compartment for proper disposal.

Inducted by the Pakistan Navy, the indigenously-built debris collection barges are an efficient solution for collection of floating debris, garbage and weeds from the harbour and inland water bodies such as lakes, dams, etc. They also have solar panels installed as auxiliary power source.

‘The port has a big role in building & development of any city built around it’

While underscoring the importance of neat and clean harbours/environment, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, the chief guest on the occasion, also emphasised the need for addressing the issue of marine pollution on a priority basis.

“The port has a big role in building and development of any city built around it. Look at New York. There half of Manhattan is owned and operated by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey because whatever the port earns is added to that city’s infrastructure,” he said, adding that same should have been the case for Karachi. “Even the main thoroughfare of Karachi is known as Bundar Road [M.A. Jinnah Road], meaning the road leading to the port. But not many here understand the strength of the port,” he said.

“Organisations such as the Karachi Port Trust here should have invested in Karachi, but they contributed little here as corporate social responsibility. But it should have really been done as a business model,” the minister said.

“Our citizens too litter everywhere. There is a need for a national awareness programme of the sea. In fact, they should teach maritime as a subject in schools and colleges because I have never come across a child who wants to be a ship captain when he grows up. We have not given them such dreams or told them stories to build their interests,” he said.

While appreciating PN’s initiative towards indigenisation and self-reliance, he lauded the Navy’s vision to promote and jump start the blue economy and ensured the support of the government to promote such initiatives in the development of technology to overcome grave issues of marine pollution.

He said that the government also had some plans for finding ways to clean Karachi as there were people here coming up with some new and innovative ideas. On a lighter note, he suggested smaller versions of the debris collection barges be also built to clean nullahs and drains.

Earlier, Commander Logistics Rear Admiral Adnan Khaliq pointed out that the ocean was a great resource but human neglect caused extreme marine pollution which, besides hurting the Karachi Harbour, had also hurt ecology.

“The continuous degradation of waters in the harbour has caused policymakers to do something about this menace as the toxic waste in the harbour may lead to serious economic losses,” he said.

Initially, three MDCD have been constructed at the PN Dockyard as a pilot project.

It is envisaged that other stakeholders of Pakistan’s maritime sector will also come forward and emulate this effort by contributing towards the cause of achieving cleaner harbours with enormous spin-offs for marine sector.

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2019