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Shortage of funds keeps aquarium closed

September 12, 2008


KARACHI, Sept 11 The fate of a once popular recreational spot in the city - Clifton Fish Aquarium - hangs in the balance as the work to revive the project has been stopped for the last two months due to a shortage of funds.

It has been about 10 years since the defunct Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) closed this facility for public on the pretext that the building was in a dilapidated condition. Since then, successive governments have not paid due attention to the reopening of the fish aquarium, thus depriving not only the citizens of Karachi but hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the country of this recreation.

Former city nazim Niamatullah Khan had tried to revive the sole fish aquarium in the country but
failed because he wanted foreign or local entrepreneurs to develop the project on a build-operate-
and-transfer basis. During his last days in office, he decided that the city government would revive the project through its own resources.

During the construction of the Bagh Ibne Qasim, its important components including reservoirs of
sea and freshwater, a filter bed, bellowing rooms and breeding rooms of fish were ruined while the seawater had already damaged the structure of the building.

Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan is said to have taken a special interest in the revival of the aquarium, directing the city government in 2005 to repair the damaged portions and open the facility forthwith. Later, city nazim Mustafa Kamal allocated Rs30 million for the project in the 2007-08 budget.

Sources said initially the project was looked after by the community development department of the city government, but in December last it was decided that the aquarium with its technical staff and funds would be given to the parks and horticulture department, which had successfully built Bagh Ibne Qasim.

They said the city government started work to re-establish the aquarium and around 50 per cent of the civil work had been completed with the amount sanctioned in the 2007-08 budget.

The sources said the city government was in the process of developing breeding ponds, a treatment
centre, a cooling tower, a fresh water reservoir, a sea water reservoir, a filter plant, an air blowing room and other important components that had been demolished but the pace of work slowed down due to the shortage of funds.

Finally, the sources said, the work was stopped after July this year due to the non-availability of funds despite the fact that the city government had earmarked Rs100 million in the budget for 2008-09 for the construction of the Clifton Fish Aquarium.

Although officials are optimistic that the project would become a reality by the end of the current fiscal year, the sources said a smooth flow of funds was the only way to meet the deadline.

They said the city government was facing a financial crunch due to a drastic cut of around Rs3.2
billion due to which work on a number of development projects had either stopped or slowed down considerably.

They also said that an honest and experienced management was also needed to run and maintain the project on international standards after its completion.

The defunct KMC built the aquarium in 1965, in collaboration with Japanese experts in Clifton near Abdullah Shah Ghazi's shrine. In 1998, the aquarium was closed to the public due to the dilapidated condition of the building. At that time, it had 33 seawater exhibition tanks where sea-based fish were kept and 14 fresh water tanks exhibiting fish species of fresh water.

Before its closure, more than one million people used to visit the aquarium annually to see hundreds of fish species in a natural atmosphere and got the opportunity to learn more about marine life. It was also one of the biggest sources of revenue generation for the defunct KMC as at the time of its closure, it earned over Rs2 million revenue.