KARACHI: The Sindh government is planning to invite private investors to develop Hawke’s Bay beach with three-star hotels and huts for which it has cancelled leases and is going to have to evict and demolish 254 huts.
This strip of beach is KMC land and stretches 5km and approximately 387 acres. It is flanked by beach owned by KPT and the Board of Revenue. The beach has an A, A1 and S series. A series is plots facing the beach and the others are behind it.
The plan is to for the Sindh government’s Public Private Partnership or PPP unit to undertake the development, confirmed DG Khalid Mehmood Shaikh. The government will hire a consultant to prepare a feasibility plan for the beach’s development.
The government will hold competitive bidding and prepare costing and a study for the Hawke’s Bay project. It would then publicly issue tenders to invite private investors. Next, the PPP policy board would review proposals and make a choice.
The objective, according to Shaikh, is to provide people services like those you will find at beaches in other countries.
“Why should people go to Thailand and any other part of the world to enjoy a clean beach,” he said. “These facilities would be made possible in Karachi under the PPP beach development plan.”
Karachi Administrator Laeeq Ahmed added that KMC will employ a chartered accountancy firm to evaluate the value of the beach sites.
The one major reason behind Hawke’s Bay development is that KMC is poor. One of its big problems is that it is unable to earn money from its assets. The Sindh government has to keep giving it money to function. This is also because the Sindh government has ironically stripped KMC of the power to earn in many cases.
The CM Sindh last week said that KMC has valuable assets such as “beautiful parks in the city and huts along the beach” and asked, “Why was KMC not operating them on PPP mode so that they not only became a reasonable source of revenue for it but could be maintained properly.”
This gave the first public announcement, via a handout from CM House, that changes were afoot.
By January 28, the PPP board approved the construction of an 8km Mauripur Expressway to Y-junction with a two lane one-way interchange at ICI Bridge. The idea was to provide speedy access to the beach, said the press handout. It would be completed in two years and it is believed it would bring an end to traffic congestion in the area. The PPP unit will now float tenders.
In December 2020, the then Karachi Administrator Iftikhar Ali Shallwani, who was serving as Karachi Commissioner too, cancelled the leases for the huts. The hut owners were told that their huts risked being demolished because KMC wanted the plots back. KMC asked the allotees to vacate the huts.
Over the years, people acquired and kept renewing their leases and built huts on the plots. Up to 30 hut owners are local. They have had them for 35 years or so. They used to give Rs1, 000 in the lease fee and they earn from it.
Some people use the huts for themselves and others rent them out to beachgoers. Baloch villages nearby have many families who have traditionally invested in building and maintaining huts and rent them out as a source of income.
In December, when the leases were cancelled, KMC gave the reason that hut owners had not paid the lease fee for three years, since 2017. The hut owners refuted this allegation. They said that they had gone to KMC but were told by its staff each time that they were not accepting payments because the lease fee was being increased.
Bladen Wilmer Hawke, the 9th Baron Hawke after whom the beach is supposedly named
Bladen Wilmer Hawke, 9th Baron Hawke in July 1949. It is said that Hawke’s Bay is named after him as he had property on the beach. He worked for the Bombay Burma Company, according to peerage records.
During the year, they can’t rent out the huts regularly. Mostly, people come during the weekend. It is only in the summer holidays when schools are out that they get people during the week. But then, during the monsoon months May, June, July, August there is a high tide and KMC sometimes says people can’t go to the beach.
There are about 12 villages whose incomes are tied to the beach including Haji Ahmed Goth, Wali Mohammad Goth, Lashkari Goth, Jamali Goth, Sumar Goth, Abdur Rehman Goth.
The KMC leases clearly state they are temporary and for one year (unlike the 99-year ones in the rest of the city). They also say that only a temporary hut can be constructed.
This is where men like Hasan Ali Khan have become stuck, and indeed anyone who has built a concrete hut. The problem is that someone sold him a hut for Rs8 million in 2018 and the KMC stamped it. “I have an endorsed sale and allotment agreement issued by KMC in the same year,” he said. He has documents such as the renewal of a temporary lease to occupy a plot, a possession order, a sale agreement and a transfer or mutation.
“If they are working on some kind of technicality that this land cannot be sold, the fact of the matter is that I paid,” said Khan.
All along the beach front, you will see RCC huts that were built over time—none of them are temporary structures. In fact, even the KMC has a hut. A drive along the strip will reveal that some are small humble constructions and others are veritable palaces. Many of them far exceed the sanctioned 120 square yards.
“These are the same huts, KPT has them, the Board of Revenue has them,” said Brohi. “You have rent there as well. Only KMC says its tax is low. Now ask yourself what KMC is providing in order to charge tax?”
Hut owners have gone to court. One of the lawyers representing a tenant, told that KMC has been accepting ground rent and the occupants have lease hold rights.
He said their case against KMC has been filed on these grounds:
KMC had issued “cyclostyle” notices to all 254 hut allottees. The notice stated that the tenants had not been paying rent since 1973, which is wrong. They were not given any solid reason or proper notice for the cancellation of their possession orders.
KMC was deliberately not accepting hut rent from the tenants for the last three years, in order to be able to say they were defaulters.
The tenants invested millions of rupees to build huts at Hawke’s Bay and now they are eligible for government compensation. “There are some rights of the people in a democracy to issue notices before an allotment cancellation or before bulldozing any erected structure.”