Keti Bunder is a small port town and fishing harbour situated 90 km (55 miles) east of Karachi. It lies at the confluence of the Hajamro and Tursian creeks at a distance of 7 km (4 miles) from the Arabian sea.
Its significance lies chiefly in its geographical bearings which place it in a position suitable for use as an important port for Pakistan if properly developed.
In 1864 A.D., Keti Bunder was closed due to the closure of the branch of Indus on which it was located. History threatens repetition and Keti Bunder may soon become a name of the past – its Fate being similar to Lari Bunder close to Thatta and Kharakbandar on the confluence of the Habb river and Arabian Sea, both of which were choked with silt during the early 18th century. Navigation may soon become difficult if not downright impossible, endangering the livelihood of the fishermen, who have already been forced to move thrice as the Arabian sea encroaches and the Indus River slowly and surely changes course.
Ecologically, the site holds its own. The wetlands of Keti Bunder North and Keti Bunder South with areas of 8948 ha and 23046 ha respectively, rank amongst important protected areas according to the Sindh Wildlife Department.
However, to date, the area has mostly met with neglect by both internal and external sources:
- The Keti Bunder Project agreement between a Hong Kong based company and the government was scrapped on June 24, 1997, just 2 years after its initiation, after a cost-benefit analysis by Pakistani officials and lack of physical development by the foreigners. If completed as planned, in 2001, the project would have included a 5280 MW electric plant, a port complex, an industrial zone between Thatta and Jamshoro and jobs for an estimated 7000 people.
- The locals of Keti Bunder suffer in silence while ecological destruction continues and natural disasters such as droughts and more recently, floods. In November 1993, a cyclone hitting the coast, created havoc in the area due to the absence of mangroves, while nearby Shah Bunder was saved by its mangrove forest.
- Public services are scarce. The Rural Health Centre lies in a state of half hearted maintenance having no doctors or lady health visitors.
- Literacy figures are low – only 21% males and 3% females are literate.
NGOs and public welfare organizations provide some hope:
- The World Bank IDA funded Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) with Aga Khan Planning and Building Services is working to provide access to clean drinking water by water filtration, is installing household latrines and thanks to its services, many village roads are now paved.
- WWF Pakistan’s coastal project aims to achieve sustainable use of the ecosystem on which the livelihood of the people depends.
Much more needs to be done for the area and the people, especially from an environmental point of view to keep it inhabitable. Mangroves have almost disappeared and the once lush rice fields are legends already. If the ecosystem is improperly cared for, it will mutilate this limb of the Indus and have widespread repercussions on the surrounding area in years to come.