Thar coal

ECONOMIC-AND- BUSINESS REVIEW – Thar coal: concerns of local community

By Zulfiqar Halepoto, Hyderabad, Sindh

Courtesy: Daily Dawn, Monday, 03 Aug, 2009

ON July 27, a three-member team of the World Bank experts on coal and mining visited Thar coal fields and met the representatives of civil society organisations and the local community. The team also visited village Thario Halepoto near Islamkot, Tharparker.

The first concern countered by the WB team was the fear of local people whether Thar and Sindh will actually benefit from the exploitation of the world’s largest resource of energy.

Perhaps it was the first-ever official visit and initial brain-storming meeting of the World Bank officials of this nature to look at the Thar coal issues. The team comprised Ms Ekaterina N. Mikhaylova, Senior Project Officer Oil, Gas, Mining and Chemicals Department, Mr Robert Murphy, a Consultant of Oil,Gas, Mining Policy Division. They were accompanied by officials of the Sindh Mines and Mineral Department and the Thar Coal Energy Board.

Officials of the Sindh Energy Board and Minerals and Mining Department claimed that the development of Thar coal reserves has been included in the priority list of projects likely to be launched during the current financial year.

Members of the WB team said their mandate was to hear the views of the community and civil society representatives to prepare their policy framework expected to be completed in one year. Representatives of leading Thar-based NGOs including TRDP were present.

Ever-since 1964, when the first feasibility report on the use of Thar coal was completed, a number of similar studies have been carried out by experts, establishing the huge abundance of good quality, easily extractable coal and other mineral deposits in Tharparkar and their potential benefits.

An estimated over 175 billion tons of proven reserves of good quality coal is spread over 9,000 square kilometers of the Thar Desert. Compare it with the figures of India’s total coal deposits of 140 billion tons. Yet, for 40 years, these reserves have remained untapped.

People in Thar live in sub-human conditions and remain deprived of even access to safe drinking water, sewerage, healthcare, transport and education. Other issues include bonded labour and violation of the fundamental rights to employment and access to food availability.

Thar coal expert Syed Mohibullah Shah is of the view that technology exists to produce potable water from coal while the mineral is utilised for power generation. Thar coal has a very large water content (over 40 per cent of its weight) and +is capable of providing an abundant water supply for the locals.

People of the area acknowledge that the country is under severe electricity and energy crisis and Sindh is ready to cater the needs but ask as to who will guarantee the protection of the rights of the local people. The community is of the view that it should be the first beneficiary of any coal project.

Thar Coal exploitation can spearhead major economic development and employment generation activities. With over 200,000 jobs flowing from it over the years, the project could rank right at the top among all investments made in Pakistan – domestic or foreign.

The first-ever baseline survey of the area and people was shared with the World Bank team and the Sindh officials were advised to do more studies and surveys to understand the area and community.

Keeping in view the importance of the issue, Thardeep Rural Development programme (TRDP) has done a baseline survey on the socio-economic and environmental aspects of this project. The report is re-produced in Sindhi, English and Urdu. The aim of the re-production of the research study was to provide baseline information and scientific data to policy and decision makers and other stakeholders for an open debate.

This research will help to understand the demographic and geographic patterns of Thar, local community, environmental issues, socio-economic realities, and human landscape and project related issues like displacement, rehabilitation, burdens for the local people and the affected communities.

The input/feedback/ briefing by the local civil society activists on socio-economic and political situation of the area and community’s concerns and expectations of the project was very impressive in terms of their level of fundamental knowledge about the project. WB team was very impressed by the level of community’s understanding and information regarding Thar coal issues including technical and socio-economic and environmental impact. From the technical issues of gasification and tariff controversy and the ownership of the recourse, every issue was discussed at length.

Following issues were tabled by the community representatives:

Policy level issues: Ownership of the project should be solely with government of Sindh; elected representatives of the area be given visible charge/control in decision making; the community (especially field area) should be part of decision-making body. There should be a single body controlled by the provincial government to deal with investors and other issues.

Community issues: There is no clear policy for community welfare in Thar coal project;

Sindh has a bitter experience of IFIs engagement in different projects and a lack of trust between the community and the donors/investors.

Displacement issues: Protection of cultural, heritage and religious sites; guarantees of employment for the local people; compensation issues as per current day rates of the lands and other belongings and; change in environmental landscape, impact on water and other livelihood commodities

The local community is happy to see its area developed but wants protection of political, social, economic, cultural and environmental rights for which a genuine effort on the part of Sindh government is required. The community feels more comfortable with the Thar Coal and Energy Board (TCEB) which it believes be treated as the only notified legal and authorised body to exercise all powers in deciding matters pertaining to mining and power generation from Thar coal. It should also address all the concerns and fears of the local people.

http://www.dawn. com/wps/wcm/ connect/dawn- content-library/ dawn/in-paper- magazine/ economic- and-business/ thar-coal- concerns- of-local- community- 389

One thought on “Thar coal”

  1. Environment Polluting Thar Coal Project Versus Environment Friendly Kalabagh Dam.

    It is very strange to note that present Government is advocating for Air Polluting Thar Coal Project Versus Environmental Friendly Kalabagh Dam.

    Kalabagh dam which will increase the water resources of the country is being opposed while Thar coal project,which will consume huge amount of water and will contaminate all water,air and land resources of Pakistan is being adovcated by the governement Clean electricity produced by Kalabagh dam will be available to every one citizen of the country while thar coal project will pollute all water,air and land resources of Pakistan for every one.Thar coal will effect each and every living organism while Kalabagh will not only store water for the time of need but with the generation of electricity will increase the resources of water by sucking up the underground water resources and will provide the clean electricity .
    Coal is one of the most polluting sources of energy available, jeopardizing our health and our environment. While Kalabagh Dams will have multiple advantages and will act as electricity power house,water reserevoir and floods preventor generate electricity,Store water,will improve fertility of lands.
    The Effects of Coal on the Environment.
    Coal as a source of energy is probably the most environmentally damaging of all the traditional sources of energy.
    • One must keep in mind that a typical power coal plant generates 3 million tons of CO2 or 17 tons of carbon per megawatt and draws about 2.3 billion gallons of water per annum from nearby source while on land coal produces mercury which not only renders water useless for human consumption but also for irrigation purpose as well.
    • Coal Power in a Warming World by Barbara Freese et al, published by the Union of Concerned Scientists in October 2008 states that “The underground mining of coal is a dangerous profession, and underground and surface mining are both highly damaging to landscapes, water supplies, and ecosystems”.
    • The Natural Resources Defense Council paper entitled “Coal in a Changing Climate”, issued in February 2007 claims that “Coal mining—and particularly surface or strip mining—poses one of the most significant threats to terrestrial habitats in the United States.”
    • Figures from “Key World Energy Statistics: 2008″ show that coal is responsible for 42% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.
    • “Coal in a Changing Climate” shows that coal produces large amounts of airborne toxic chemicals, including sulfur dioxide, mercury, nitrous oxides, arsenic and lead.

    Coal is a highly polluting energy source. It emits much more carbon per unit of energy than oil, and natural gas. CO2 represents the major portion of greenhouse gases. It is, therefore, one of the leading contributors to climate change. From mine to sky, from extraction to combustion — coal pollutes every step of the way. The huge environmental and social costs associated with coal usage make it an expensive option for developing countries. From acid drainage from coal mines, polluting rivers and streams, to the release of mercury and other toxins when it is burned, as well as climate-destroying gases and fine particulates that wreak havoc on human health, COAL is unquestionably, a DIRTY BUSINESS.
    On one side China and India are planning to curb the Carbon emmision by curbing the use of oil,coal and other fossil fuels,and Bangladesh and Maldives are crying for taking measures against rise of seas due to global warming and on other side we Pakistanies are planning to use Thar coal which will not only pollute the whole environment of South Asia but will infact endanger the life of peoples living in Kashmir,Northern areas,NWFP,PUNJAB and Sind as the direction of smoke and dangerous gases will be from east to north west of Pakistan.And people of these areas will suffer from respioratory diseases such as Asthma,Bronchitis and cancer, and people of these areas will suffer from dangers and adverse effects of somking without somking the cigarrets.

    Already Polluted Atmosphere of South Asia.
    South Asia is already suffering from the adverse effects of Brown cloud(Accumulation of Dirty gases in upper atmosphere of Subcontinent and is having negative effects on the heath of population of India and Pakistan ,Moreover there is already shortage of Ozone gas in the upper atmosphere of South Asia,due to which people of South Asia (India, Pakistan,Bangladesh and Sri Lanka ) are not having perfect healthy bodies as compared other reaces of the world.In view of such a bad condition of atmosphere burning the coal is just like to throw the people Pakistan into valley of death
    There are a number of adverse environmental effects of coal mining and burning, specially
    The glaciers of the Himalayas, Karakoram, Hindukush and Pamir ranges in Gilgit-Baltistan contribute significantly to the stream flow of the IBRS. More significantly, during the dry season these glaciers become the system’s only source. Impacts due to climate change on these glaciers have been studied in recent decades and vivid fluctuation of water flow in the Indus River Basin System has been reported.
    Due to flow of toxic gases and smoke from Thar Coal towards North and Western Pakistan,It is the responsibility of Jammu and Kashmir,Northern Areas,NWFP,Punjab and Sind Governments to review the adverse effects of Thar coal as it is the matter of life and death of the people of these areas.As unhealthy environment due to smoke and toxic gases will destroy the beauty of Vallies of Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan and will cause health problems such as cancer,asthma,bronchitis and other respiratory and genetic diseases due to environmental pollution in the people of Punjab,NWFP,Kashmir,Gilgit and Baltistan.

    Written By:M.AKRAM KHAN NIAZI.

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