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Manora Cantonment

Manora is a small 2.5-square-kilometer island located just south of the port of Karachi. It is connected to the mainland by a 12-kilometer long causeway called Sandspit and a 13.4 km one from Mauripur Town. Manora and neighboring islands form a protective barrier between the Karachi harbor to the north and the Arabian Sea to the south. The western bay of the harbor contains endangered mangrove forests which border Sandspit and Manora island. To the east are the Karachi Bay and the beach towns of Keamari and Clifton.

The Manora Cantonment is a cantonment town in a small Manora Island, located just south of the Karachi, in Sindh, Pakistan. It serves as a military base and residential establishment. It was established by the British Indian Army in 19th century British India, and taken over by the Pakistan Army in 1947. The cantonment maintains its own infrastructure of water supply, electricity and is outside the jurisdiction of City District Government of Karachi.

Sandspit lies about 18 km southwest of Karachi City. It is one of the prime recreational sites for the citizens of Karachi. The area contains shallow tidal lagoons, intertidal mudflats, saltpans and about 400 ha of mangrove swamps. The western part is open sandy beach extending for about 20 km. The Lyari River feeds the backwaters from the eastern side and seawater enters from the south as well as from Karachi harbor. The climate is arid subtropical with temperatures remaining moderate throughout the year. The average annual rainfall is 125 mm and the mean annual temperature is 32 C.

The Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and Manora Cantonment Board own the major portion of the area. The Karachi City District Government also manages some part of the beach. It is also a prime recreational site for citizens of Karachi. A large number of visitors (estimated as 150,000) come to the area annually.

Fishing is the main source of earning of people in the surveyed sites, as fishing activity is carried out for eight months; fishermen do not go into the open sea when sea is rough from May to August, the village communities exploit almost all commercially important fish and shrimp resources of Pakistan Coastal waters. Not all the fishermen own a boat but most of them work as labor on others' boat. The literacy rate is very low. There are only 25 persons in the village who are matriculate (Secondary School level). The literacy in females is almost negligible. Because of overexploitation of fish resources local communities complain about the decrease in their number. Many fishes have become extinct now which is a very alarming situation. According to them, in the past they would catch 300 to 400 Kg of shrimps per fishing trip of 24 hours. But now despite the whole day fishing activity they can hardly catch 8 to 10 kg. According to the villagers' perception, those families, who are dependent on only fishing or mangrove and have no other alternative resources, are basically poor. Those who have alternative livelihoods especially in the form of jobs, etc., besides their dependency on fisheries resources, are termed as middle class people. Those people who have more than two resources of livelihoods are regarded as wealthy people.

For a visitor to Manora Island, the second class treatment starts at Keamari where one has to board a boat to make it across. While the privileged class has a separate jetty courtesy the Pakistan Navy and the Karachi Port Trust, for lesser mortals there is a decaying landing stage area where creaking launches are ready to take passengers to the island for a price. Manora is a quaint little fishing village but most of its older buildings have been closed to the public. Only people connected to the Navy or the KPT are considered worthy enough to be allowed a visit. Manora Cantonment charges Rs20 per adult and Rs10 per child as 'entry fee' for visitors. Possibly this is the only place in the country where an entrance fee is charged for entering a public area. The person collecting the charge is unusually honest. He calls it "Ghunda Tax" by the Manora Cantonment board.

A small pyramid-shaped Hindu temple, the 'Shri Varun Dev Mandir' is in Manora. The structure still appears grand from afar, while the leftover tile work and craftsmanship gives a sense of its glorious past. The walls of the mandir have beautiful carvings in the Dev Nagri script. The temple is said to be more than 1,000 years old. Its beautiful architecture and appearance is in decay due to a complete lack of care. Its walls and rooms serve as a toilet for the locals of Manora's sandy beach.

According to the 1998 census, Manora's population was 9,987 and had dropped by half by 2008. Three types of civilians are residents of the Manora Cantonment Board: leaseholders, employees of federal departments including Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and fishermen. Most of the KPT employees left Manora after receiving a golden handshake from the trust and have now moved to other parts of the city, leading to a drop in the population.

By May 2008 the Manora Cantonment Board (MCB) was soon to be handed over to a Dubai-based firm for development. The board's spokesman has told Daily Times that Pakistan's Ministry for Ports and Shipping signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2006 with Dubai World, M/s Limitless and Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) for the redevelopment of Manora Island. Former prime minister Shaukat Aziz brought the companies in as part of the plan to attract direct foreign investment for beach front projects at Sea View and Gwadar. The Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and all military establishments will vacate the island and hand it over to the companies.

The development will comprise high-rise hotels and apartment buildings in addition to beach huts for foreigners, adding that according to the design, the island would be turned into a tourist resort with a water sports arena on the shore. M/S Limitless is the same company behind The Palm Jumeirah and Jumeirah Islands and is known for its master planned communities. Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai signed the MoU with the Government of Pakistan, according to a spokesman for the Ministry of Ports and Shipping. "The Manora Island project was named Sugar Land City with an initial investment of $20 billion," he said. "It is very disappointing that the project was unnecessarily halted due to resistance from the fishermen community."

Karachi Electric Supply Company Ltd. [KESC] continued its environment conservation drive in Karachi in 2009 by partnering with Manora Cantonment Board and Naval base Himalaya for the plantation of 2,000 trees in the area, to beautify and improve the environment of the area. Tree plantation drive was inaugurated at the Manora Cantonment Board Officer by Iftikhar Ahmed Mir, MEO Karachi Circle and CEO Manora Cantonment and Captain Naveed Ahmed, President Manora Cantonment Board and Station Commander PNS Base Himalaya along with Zehra Mehdi, GM CSR KESC. On the occasion, the importance of public private partnerships to improve the environment was emphasized and KESC's initiative to plant trees at Manora was applauded. President and Station Commander Manora Cantonment Captain Naveed said that they will fully support this activity and ensured successful plantation and maintenance of approximately 80 per cent plant saplings.

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