Karachi's Polluted Coastline

The Karachi Coastline Case

About TED Categories and Clusters
     CASE NUMBER:        308
     CASE NAME:          Karachi's Polluted Coastline


1.   The Issue
     The Karachi coastline's growing pollution level, which is tied
to the increasing  volume of trade via the shipping industry
through the Karachi Port, is severely  contaminating the mangrove
forests and marine life in the area.  Karachi Port handles the 
majority of the country's seaborne trade while the surrounding city
of  Karachi accounts  for half of the government's revenues and
contributes 20 percent of Pakistan's GDP.  Karachi, which is
Pakistan's financial center and has the highest concentration of
literate  people in the country, also serves as the location for a
large portion of the country's  primary export industries which
produce large amounts of industrial waste.(1)  Untreated  waste and
sewage from factories are drained into the sea as well as oil
spills from ships  and fishing trawlers transiting the port.(2) 
The port authorities are ill-equipped to deal with the
environmental degradation being caused by the shipping industry. 
Moreover, because many landlocked Central Asian countries are
beginning to view Pakistan as a  conduit to ship out their exports,
the port activity is likely to increase; and so will the 
pollution.  The national government is now faced with the complex
problem of encouraging the upswing in trade to foster economic
growth while at the same time  attempting to contain the
environmental damage that ensues with these new opportunities.  
2.   Description
     The Karachi coastline, which stretches over 135 km, is facing
severe pollution due  to a combination of industrial, port,
municipal, and transportation activities in the area.   The
coastline is being overwhelmed with water-borne pollution being
discharged in the  shipping process into the marine environment.(3) 
A recent study found that some of the  marine life was contaminated
with lead, which if consumed by humans through seafood,  has been
linked to anemia, kidney failure, and brain damage.(4)  In fact,
the study also  discovered that even the mangrove forests---
protecting the feeder creeks from sea erosion  as well as a source
of sustenance for fishermen--are threatened by this pollution.  
     Pakistan is heavily dependent on these mangrove forests to
maintain the ecological  balance.  For example, the mangrove leaf
litter provides a major source of nutrients.  The  mangroves
provide a diverse habitat for a complex and interdependent
community of  invertebrates, fish, birds, and reptiles; and the
primary productivity of these mangrove-covered deltaic areas is
four to seven times those of coastal areas without mangroves.(5)  
Of a global concern is that the South Asian waterfowl seek food and
shelter in these  estuaries and mangroves.  In addition, most of
the tropical marine--such as the  commercially important shrimp--
species seek shelter in the mangroves for one stage of  their life
cycles.  The shipping industry, through its discharges, water
pollution, and  possible leakages and spills, impacts on this
     The greatest pollution occurs at Karachi port--because of its
high usage--from vessels illegally pumping out bilges and refuse at
the port's oil terminal.  Sewage and garbage from the visiting
vessels are often uncontrolled and while the offenders are often 
fined by port authorities, this has not been an effective
deterrent.  Moreover, port authorities are ill-equipped and
inadequately trained to recognize other hidden toxic  dumping
activities, such as dumping toxic waste at sea or by leaving
wrongly labeled  containers on land.  The World Bank noted in an
environmental study that "sewage and toxic matter [pollution in the
Karachi Port] includes (i) toxic effects either direct or indirect 
by bio-accumulation of oil, DDT, PCB, and various metals; (ii)
avoidance reaction by fish and shrimp because of poor water
quality; (iii) distortion of organisms and reduction in  their
reproduction because of poor water quality and the fact that parts
of the mudflat  areas are being covered with oil; and (iv)
increased erosion because dying mangroves can  no longer reinforce
the banks with their roots."(6) 
     The port is also affecting the environment with its heavy
shipping of oil and  subsequent dredging activities; traits common
in the shipping industry.  Due to country's spiralling dependence
on oil imports, oil is one of the major cargoes imported at the
port.   However, an estimated 90,000 tons per year of oily
discharges are pumped out within port limits and there exists no
oily ship waste reception or treatment facility within the port.(7) 
 In addition, a common environmental problem associated with the
shipping industry, dredging, is having a major impact.  Dredging is
the process of removing the silt buildup in  the port from the
entering and exiting of the ships.  The dredged material is dumped
out to  sea to maintain the port.  However, there is no system for
monitoring trace metal in the  dredged spoil which is likely
further deteriorating the environment.       

     A significant percentage of the coastal pollution is
contributed when the export  industries ship their goods through
the Karachi Port.  The port induces polluting industries  to set up
shop nearby in order to expedite exportation.  The pollution from
these  industries is affecting the environment because much of the
factories' effluent is untreated  and released directly into the
port area.  The 1991 Pakistan National Environmental Plan 
estimates that three main coastal industries located near the port
with the largest volumes  of effluents are the steel mill, power
plants, and refineries and notes that many smaller  industrial
units are having more significant polluting effects on the marine
environment.  In  1992, a United Nations study noted that the
"concept of wastes recycling, treatment, and  disposal does not
exist in the industrial sector [in Pakistan.]  Even the highly
polluted  wastes are being discharged irrationally into water
bodies, on soil and in the air...industrial waste treatment systems
are virtually non-existent in the country and those existing in a 
few industries, either technically do not meet the requirement
standards or they are out of use or are nonoperational."(8)  With
scarce national government policies on environmental  controls, the
industries are able to dispose of the waste the cheapest way for
the company (which translates into dumping into the sea.)    
     In addition to the growing export industries contribution to
the pollution, trade activity in the Karachi Port is expected to
rise steadily.  Pakistan's total seaborne trade is about 32 million
tons per year and is expected to maintain an average growth rate of
about  4.5 percent per annum.(9)  Moreover, because "recent changes
have led to a major realignment in trading patterns in the region
leading to the expansion of the Economic  Cooperation Organization
(ECO) to include the Central Asian states and Afghanistan  along
with Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey...Pakistan stands already committed
to provide a suitable deep water port for the landlocked countries
of the ECO."(10)  The steady push for increasing the capacity of
the port facilities is likely to only increase in the near-term. 
Without improvements as outlined in the above paragraphs, however,
the upsurge in the  shipping industry, and therefore pollution, is
likely to overburden the environment along the Karachi coastline.

3.   Related Cases


     Key Words
     (1): Environmental Problem    Pollution Sea [POLS]
     (2): Habitat                  Temperate 
     (3): Forum                    Pakistan

4.   Draft Author:  Theresa Augustus (May, 1996)

B.   LEGAL Clusters

5.   Discourse and Status:    Disagree and INPROGress
     The government is having limited success in its efforts to
stem pollution from  shipping along the Karachi coastline.  As
stated in the introduction, the government is  trying to find a
middle ground between a policy that promotes trade within a
sustainable  environment.  The reason for this disconnect stems
from the national government's  troubles in merging the environment
and economics in the decisionmaking process.  In  1994 the
government set up the Marine Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to
supervise and  implement pollution control and prevention measures
along Pakistan's coastline.(11)   However, a preliminary readout
indicates that the board does not have much power to  back its
mission and the MPCB has had little success.  In addition, although
the need to  enter the international arena to prevent ocean dumping
of wastes and pollution is  imperative, Pakistan is not a signatory
to the 1972 Convention of Prevention of  Marine  Pollution by
Dumping of Waste and Other Matter or the 1978 MARPOL Protocol
relating  the International Convention for Prevention of Pollution
from Ships.  

     Another prominent example of the national government's
sluggish policy on  legislation to regulate the environmental
policies on the shipping industry occurred when  negotiating a loan
to expand Karachi port in the late 1980's.  The government was 
pressured to make these concessions in order to upgrade its port
facility.  During the  project pre-appraisal by the World Bank, an
environmental expert was included in the  talks to aid the World
Bank team.  In order to protect the marine environment, a series of 
measures were tentatively agreed upon with the Karachi Port Trust
which included mainly  rehabilitation of the pipeline trench,
provision of reception and surveillance facilities to  monitor
waste discharged from the ships, and the establishment of a Marine
Environment  Unit.  But progress in implementing these changes has
been slow.(12)  

     There are, however, several other current policies, plans, and
proposed projects  that are likely to have an impact on marine life
and coastal resources in general, as laid out  by the 1991 Pakistan
National Conservation Strategy:  "Salient examples include the
Indus  water accord, allowing the provinces additional water
withdrawals; the coastal zone  management plan, envisaging
recreational development from Cape Monze to the Indus  Delta; and
the project to construct a long-sea outfall for effluent disposal. 
The  consequences of reducing freshwater inflows to the mangroves
have to be carefully  investigated."  The plan also mentions a
proposed effort to encourage the development of  inland fisheries,
using pen culturing in small reservoirs, instead of promoting the
marine  fisheries which are catching rising numbers of contaminated

6.   Forum and Scope:    PAKISTAN and UNILATeral
7.   Decision Breadth:   1

8.   Legal Standing:     LAW

C    GEOGRAPHIC Clusters

9.   Geographic Locations
     a.   Continental Domain:      Asia [ASIA]
     b.   Geographic Site:         South Asia
     c.   Geographic Impact:       Pakistan

10.  Sub-National Factors:    NO

11.  Type of Habitat:  TEMP

D.   Trade Clusters

12.  Type of Measure:    [LICEN], [ADMIN]
13.  Direct vs. Indirect Impacts:  INDirect

14.  Relation of Measure to Impact:

     a.   Directly Related to Product:  YES  TRANSport
     b.   Indirectly Related to Product:  No
     c.   Not Related to Product:  No
     d.   Related to Process:  YES      Pollution Sea [POLLS]

15.       Trade Product Identification: TRANSport

     The shipping industry, as a form of transportation, pollutes
the environment.  In  this case study, the incoming and outgoing
ships regularly discharge sewage, garbage, and  sometimes toxic
wastes.  The Karachi port authorities are facing difficulties in
combatting  these elusive activities.  Port measures are not
effective in the surveillance of ships to  prevent the dumping of
pollutants.  Moreover, oil spills are a continual hazard when 
importing oil, which Karachi Port does in great quantities.  In
fact, oil importation is  project to steadily increase due to the
country's urgent need for more energy production.   The flip side
of the imports is that the port is still inadequately prepared to
handle not only  oil spills, but the oil leakage that occurs in
daily port activities.  Karachi Port lacks up-to-date reception
facilities for oil and oily waters as well as sufficient means to
contain oil  spills during unloading of tankers.    

     Another underlying aspect to the transport services that the
shipping industry  provides is that industrial goods produced for
trade which will transit through the Karachi  port facility. 
Perhaps due to the much-needed industrial productions in the
economy, the  government is reportedly reluctant to enforce strict
anti-dumping laws.  The primary  industries in Pakistan are: 
cotton, textiles, clothing, and leather.(13)  These sectors, many 
of them centered around Karachi, all add a great deal of industrial
waste to the coastal  waters around the city.  

16.  Economic Data

The Karachi Port handled 22 million tons of cargo in 1992-93 and
should be able  to handle up to 30 million tons of cargo by

17.  Degree of Competitive Impact: LOW
18.  Industry Sector:    SERVICES
19.  Exporter and Importer:   Pakistan and Many


20.  Environment Problem Type: Pollution Sea [POLS]
21.  Species Information

22.  Impact and Effect:  HIGH and REGULatory
23.  Urgency and Lifetime:    Low and 100s of years
24.  Substitutes:   BIODegradable

F.   OTHER Factors

25.  Culture:  NO
26.  Human Rights:  YES

     The polluted port and coastline diminish the quality of life
for Pakistanis.  In  addition to poisoning the marine life in the
sea, the contaminated fish can harm the unwary  domestic consumer
who purchases it.  The marine life consumed domestically--such as 
fish, shrimp, and oysters--are directly contaminated.  Marine life
is also decreasing in  numbers which is directly affecting the
local population who demands on fishing to  augment their food
supply.  Some studies have shown that "eutrophication caused by 
pollution from sewage--though increasing the overall biomass in the
form of algal blooms--has reduced economically important marine
fauna."(15)  Finally, the pollution directly  affects the
shoreline, including the mangroves, and can have serious
implications for  human health--via water-borne diseases and
contact with contaminated water--for the  villages along the
27.  Trans-Boundary Issues:   YES

     The Karachi coastline stretches along the Pakistani shores for
135 kilometers.   However, the pollution cannot be contained to
this coast alone and is likely to spread to its  neighboring
countries--Iran and India--as well as further into international
waters.   Depending on tidal flows, and how far out to sea waste is
dumped, the pollution will touch  on other countries' shores.  One
primary area of concern in Pakistan involves attempting  to control
the pollution that flows downstream, a dilemma which creates
problems for  each subsequent village along the river.  The same
concept applies to the inevitable  expansion of the Karachi Port's
pollution crisis to both India and Iran, which are dealing  with
similar pollution problems. 

     Moreover, another trans-border aspect of the pollution
involves the export of infected fish and shrimp.  If the seafood
fished in the polluted waters is exported to other  countries, the
trade good that was shipped is contaminated.  As one can see, while
the  situation began as a domestic problem, with trade involved it
has quickly transcended the  state border.

28.  Relevant Literature

1. World Bank.  "Karachi Port Modernization"  Staff Appraisal
Report #LN 3335-PAK.  13 May 1991.  

2.  "Pakistan National Environmental Action Plan"  Pakistan
National Conservation  Strategy, Volume 1.  1991.

3.  "Pollution of Costal Area Waters Deplored"  Karachi Dawn.  4
June 1992.

4.  "UN Report Calls NaTion "Polluters Paradise"  Karachi Dawn.  4
June 1992. 

5.  Beg, Dr. Mirza Arshad Ali.  "Merchant Shipping in Pakistan" 
Pakistan & Gulf     Economist.  25 November - 1 December 1995.

6.  "Gwadar Deep Water Port"  Pakistan & Gulf Economist.  11-17
February 1995.  Pp.       14-16.


1.   Linden, Eugene.  "The Exploding Cities of the Developing
World"  Foreign Affairs.  15 January 1996.

2.   "Pollution of Costal Area Waters Deplored"  Karachi Dawn.  4
June 1992.

3.   Beg, Dr. Mirza Arshad Ali.  "Environmental Degradation" 
Pakistan & Gulf Economist.    11-17 February 1995.  Pp. 113-118.

4.   "Pollution of Coastal Area Waters Deplored"  Karachi Dawn.  6
June 1992.

5.   "Pakistan National Environmental Action Plan"  Pakistan
National Conservation Strategy, Volume 1.  1991. 

6.   "UN Report Calls NaTion "Polluters Paradise"  Karachi Dawn. 
4 June 1992.

7.   World Bank.  "Karachi Port Modernization"  Staff Appraisal
Report #LN 3335-PAK. 13  May 1991. Pg. 26-27.  

8.  "Pakistan National Environmental Action Plan"  Pakistan
National Conservation Strategy, Volume 1.  1991.  Pg. 86.

9.   Zheer, Capt. Raffat.  "Action, not words needed to revive
shipping industry"  Pakistan & Gulf Economist.  11-17 February
1995.  Pp. 11-12.

10  "Gwadar Deep Water Port"  Pakistan & Gulf Economist.  11-17
February 1995.  Pp. 14-16.

11.  "Pakistan:  Special Report - Marpol Bill Completed"  Lloyds

12.  January 1995. 12World Bank.  "Karachi Port Modernization" 
Staff Appraisal Report #LN 3335-PAK. 13 May 1991.  Pg. 26-27.  

13.  Central Intelligence Agency.  "Pakistan"  1994 World Factbook. 
Pp. 303-4.

14.  Beg, Dr. Mirza Arshad Ali.  "Merchant Shipping in Pakistan" 
Pakistan & Gulf Economist.  25 November - 1 December 1995.  Pg. 10.

15.  "Pakistan National Environmental Action Plan"  Pakistan
National Conservation Strategy, Volume 1. 1991. Pg. 86.

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May 6, 1996