I decided to contact Mr. Hamza to learn more about Gadani. Here’s our email interview:
Why did you go to Gadani? Did you already know about ship-breaking?
Why did I go to Gadani? Because it is a beautiful beach and makes for the wonderful day trip. Yes, I have always known that Gadani is a classic ship breaking place. In fact, I have often heard that it is the world’s largest ship breaking place. I am not sure if that claim is correct or not. But sure enough Gadani is worth a visit.
What’s the most surprising thing that you learned about the place when you went there?
Umm. I think it is a difficult question. Well, I think I saw that lot of poor men, from far off places, like Northern Pakistan and Punjab province, come here for the job. Not many people from Baluchistan are here. And almost none from Karachi. I mean that is very surprising. But when you know that ship breaking is actually a back breaking work, you understand that only Punjabis and Pathans can do it. Not someone from city like Karachi. And not surprisingly, almost all the owners of the ships are from either Karachi or Lahore.
And the sea is very dirty as well. It is still beautiful.
How does it compare to other places that you’ve photographed?
It has a clear blue sky. Most of Pakistani coastal areas have a beautiful sky specially if you happen to be there early morning. So the photographs naturally come out nice and brisk. Another advantage is that as a photographer / photojournalist you get lot of good photographs of hard working, smiling, tough men. It is a place to be if you like hard work yourself. And all the steam from the engines, and oil spread around; and the huge chains and the sound of Arabian Sea splashing. Wow.
Do you think that the recycling that they’re doing makes a difference? How does it impact Karachi and Pakistan?
If there were no Gadani, I think the price of steel and iron would simply shoot up and would perhaps go beyond imagination. That is my opinion. But that could be the case. One good reason why activity has suddenly improved at Gadani recently.
I should tell you that I my maternal uncle used to buy ships from abroad and break them at Gadani. He made lot of money in that business. And he still has that wonderful wooden wheel which acts as a driver’s steering wheel installed at his home. And I possess a captain’s chair, gifted to my father, long ago, by my uncle. So my relationship with Gadani dates back to before my birth.
What should Europeans and North Americans understand about Gadani and ship-breaking that maybe isn’t show in your photos? What do we need to understand about this issue?
People should understand that although Gadani brings in lot of jobs to people in Pakistan, it also inevitably destroys large chunks of natural beauty. The sea gets polluted and the water gets polluted. All the dirt and the garbage are thrown into the sea. And no care is given to environmental concerns. I think that is one reason why ship breaking at such a large scale has not been developed in western countries.