Sindh Produces 70% of oil/gas, yet locals around fields cut Trees for their kitchens

ddandhForwarded by Khalid Hashmani (McLean, Virginia, USA)
Oil and gas exploration
Courtesy and Thanks: Daily Dawn
GIVEN the energy crunch facing Pakistan, it is heartening to note that exploration activities are picking up pace in the country.

According to the PM’s adviser on petroleum and natural resources, 100 new oil and gas wells will be drilled this year. It is said that the success rate in Pakistan is exceptionally good, with every third or fourth well hitting pay dirt compared to the international average of one success in eight to 10 attempts. That means we can expect upwards of 25 new productive oil and gas wells this year. Hardly any room for complaint there. But there is cause for concern because such exploration – most of it in Sindh and Balochistan – cannot come at the cost of the environment and must benefit the people who reside in these resource-rich areas. A balance has to be struck, for any ‘development’ that is not sustainable will ultimately result in economic hardship, not betterment. Improvement of human lives and protection of our flora and fauna must be factored into the equation because otherwise the country will be poorer in real terms, not richer, no matter how many new wells we tap.

Some basic ground rules need to be put in place. Environmental impact assessments (EIAs) should be carried out before a single hole has been dug in the ground, not after the project is already under way. As things stand, the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency allows project owners to hire companies that carry out the EIA. There is considerable scope for conflict of interest here (wouldn’t your loyalties lie with your employers?) and this rule needs to be changed. Environmental impact assessments will become meaningful only when they are conducted by reputable neutral agencies. Then there is the ethics of doing business. In August last year, the Sindh Assembly adopted resolutions pertaining to the oil and gas sector that deserved greater publicity than they received. It was said that the federal government should be approached to ensure that exploration companies hire local people. In another call, the provincial legislature demanded that oil and gas companies must invest in the areas they exploit, as per the terms of their concession agreements. This, regrettably, has not been happening. It is estimated that Sindh produces nearly 70 per cent of the country’s gas and oil, yet the people who live in the vicinity of gas fields must cut down trees to light a stove. Injustice and development cannot go hand in hand.
Courtesy and Thanks: Daily Dawn

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