To meet its energy needs, Pakistan with the help of China is looking to excavate massive coal deposits that lie beneath the sand in Thario Halepoto village, located in the Thar desert in south-eastern Pakistan. The country would also build coal fired power stations.
Coal mining in Thar energyheadline
Pakistan has abundant coal reserves, located primarily in Sindh province in Tharpakar and in the Thar Desert. Pakistan’s geological survey has discovered 175 billion tonnes of lignite coal – one of the largest untapped coal deposits in the world.
Pakistan’s Sindh province Google Maps
The Thar desert, is home nearly 1.6 million people who live in poverty and are highly vulnerable to extreme weather events.
The $1.3 billion worth Sino-Sindh Coal mine Thar project is part of the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which includes eight coal-fired power plants and a 3,000-kilometre network of roads, railways and pipelines to transport oil and gas from Gwadar Port on the Arabian sea to Kashgar, in the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang.
$46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor defence.pk
China has already sanctioned $1.2 billion for surface mining of Thar coal and the establishment of 660 MW power projects. Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) has been tasked to excavate 1.57 billion tonnes of coal and build a 660 megawatt power plant. In the first phase SECMC will relocate five villages, which are located in block II, including Thario Halepoto village.
SECMC has started paying villagers for their homes and agricultural land.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and former President Asif Ali Zardari jointly performed groundbreaking of the Thar Coal Mining and Power Project on January 31,, 2014 at Thar Coalfield Block-II near Islamkot. skyscrapercity
However, locals are not agreeing with the market price that SECMC is offering, saying this does not take into account its high environmental value. Villagers also don’t want to be relocated to the new towns, the exact location of which is yet to be decided.
“We have dozens of trees on each acre of land. We feed our livestock from these trees even during droughts and also when it rains we plough our lands and get a huge amount from the crops. These lands are our permanent source of livelihood,” said one villager.
The coal project will also severely impact the grazing land. The Sindh province gets 60 percent of the milk, meat and leather requirement from Thar desert.
Villagers fear that the project will be an environmental disaster for the desert as SECMC will cut thousands of indigenous trees to make way for the mining and construction of roads, destroying the local ecology. Villagers say they have been using the leaves of these trees as fodder for their animals.
In the past three years, drought in the desert had led to the death of more than 3,000 children in the past three years.
Thar coal deposits are lignite, a lower quality coal. This means a higher quantity of coal needs to be burnt to produce power, which means more carbon emissions. Surprisingly, at a time when many countries around the world are reducing power generation from dirty lignite, China is helping countries like Pakistan to mine lignite coal and build new power stations.