Energy experts warn IMF’s proposed loan package for Pakistan a recipe for socio-climatic disaster

  • Calendar May 19, 2023

KARACHI, LAHORE, ISLAMABAD, May 19, 2023: The so-called prior actions, or conditionalities being imposed on Pakistan by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the approval of a long-delayed loan are not just crippling Pakistani economy, they are also jeopardizing its post-flood mitigation, adaptation and compensation measures necessitated by the ever-worsening consequences of climate change. These views were expressed by lawyers, academics, journalists and civil society activists at a webinar organized today (Friday) by the Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy (ACJCE).

The speakers at the webinar said that similar prior actions have strangulated economic growth potential in several other economies of global south and discouraged them from developing and deploying homegrown solutions to climatic problems. Lamenting that the IMF’s prior actions do not include any measures that support rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts needed for socio-economic revival of the flood-hit areas in southern parts of Pakistan, they said that the loan’s approval has been delayed for many months even though its conditionalities are already making life increasingly difficult for the economically most marginalized sections of the society. “The IMF review of Pakistan’s compliance with the loan’s prior action has not recognized the climate-change induced impact of the 2022 floods,” said Hashim Rashid, a researcher working at a Lahore based legal research institution, Alternative Collective Law, which is also a member of ACJCE. “The flat refusal to allow fuel subsidies for lower-middle class and poor population shows that the IMF is not interested in mitigating the impact of economic and environmental disasters that Pakistanis have faced in the last year or so,” he said and added that the IMF, instead, should have linked the phasing out of subsidies on fossil fuels with the promotion and incentivizing of renewable energy.

Rashid, who has also sent a letter to the IMF on behalf of ACJCE, said, while uncertainty still prevails on whether the loan will be approved after all, its associated “prior actions have already caused many negative outcomes for Pakistan’s struggling and stagnant economy such as falling currency, hyperinflation, rising taxes, spiraling energy prices and production costs across all sectors of economy.” The IMF’s failure to approve the loan while insisting that its prior actions must be met at any cost has stymied many nascent industries that could increase the use of renewable sources of energy, he added. “The IMF-imposed fiscal restrictions have jeopardized the import and local manufacture of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Federico Sibaja, an Argentinian social campaigner working with Recourse, an international civil society group, told the audience that his country has defaulted on its loan payments nine times since early 1990s despite having followed IMF’s solutions for its persistence economic crisis for the last 30 years. “The hyperinflation and IMF dependency prevailing in Argentina remind its people of the hardships caused by the debt repayment crisis of the 1980s,” he said and added that “we have learnt no lessons from the past” and have once again accepted the largest ever loan package from IMF with all its attendant prior actions. Under this loan package, according to him, IMF continues to push for accelerating the growth of exports in such sectors as fossil fuel extraction, agricultural industry and mining but is giving no consideration to the “negative social and ecological consequences of this growth,” he added. “IMF is also failing to push for structural transformation in Argentinian economy so that it can align itself with climate policy goals,” he said.

Fiza Qureshi, a senior representative of Indus Consortium, an Islamabad-based member organization of ACJCE, also criticized IMF’s prior actions for thwarting Pakistan’s much-needed transition to renewable energy sources. “As a follow-up on its negotiation with IMF, the government of Pakistan has removed subsidies on solar panels and their associated materials. This has adversely impacted our national goals related to energy transition and renewable energy promotion,” she said.

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    World Bank-backed LNG expansion in Pakistan to create another expensive, unsustainable fuel-based energy model: study

    • Calendar Jun 22, 2022

    KARACHI, LAHORE and ISLAMABAD, JUNE 22, 2022: International and local experts have raised the alarm on World Bank’s support and expansion of gas and LNG infrastructure in Pakistan that can pose a great threat to Paris Agreement goals and cause a catastrophic climate change crisis.

    Discussing the findings of a research study by Recourse, a Netherlands-based non-profit organization, the experts urged the World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC) to stop investing in costly LNG imports and gas expansion and support the Pakistani government to use its own indigenous, sustainable, and renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar.

    The research study, titled ‘The Trouble with Gas in Pakistan: How the World Bank’s support for fossil gas has imperiled Pakistan’s transition to clean energy’ was launched in a webinar on Wednesday organized by the Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy, a coalition of civil society organizations working on energy transition in Pakistan.

    Fran Witt, Senior Consultant at Recourse, said, “The Bank and IFC continue to support gas and LNG expansion in Pakistan, leading the country to another unsustainable fuel-based energy model that is likely to lead to stranded assets.” She added that this is diverting the much-needed funds away from investments in sustainable renewable energy. “Gas cannot be considered a ‘transition’ fuel to cleaner energy systems, but is rather a carbon-intensive high emitting fossil fuel, similar to coal, potentially diverting funds away from cleaner renewable alternatives,” Witt added.

    Referring to the proposed construction of an LNG terminal by Tabeer LNG Ltd. in Port Qasim, M. Abdul Rafay, Associate at Alternative Law Collective, said expanding gas infrastructures pose a costly threat to biodiversity and marine life – especially the mangroves which are already in severe distress owing to unchecked industrial excesses in the area. “The feasibility evaluation of these projects inevitably fails to factor in dangers to the environment posed by methane leaks and the cost needed to mitigate them,” he said.

    Rafay added that the LNG floating units impede traditional fishing routes for local fishing communities, causing destruction to their livelihood. “The outdated environmental impact assessment omits crucial details of the project and provides no clarity on why it has been allowed despite human settlements within a 4km radius,” he said.

    Haneea Isaad, Energy Finance Analyst at Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a US-based think tank, said, “Pakistan’s inability to service fuel-related debt amidst rising fuel prices and a severely weakening rupee has not only led to fuel shortages in the power sector but has also given rise to widespread load-shedding and rising energy bills.”

    Isaad pointed out that Pakistan procures almost 44% of its LNG on the spot market, where recent volatility has led to Pakistan procuring the fuel upwards of $30/mmbtu, a cost that is directly transferred to the consumers. “As a result, the average cost of electricity in Pakistan has risen to PKR 25/KWh from PKR 15/KWh, with no relief in sight for the poor,” she said, adding that the industrial sector is also facing gas shortages whereas the rising costs lead to narrower profit margins. Isaad said that the current situation could have been avoided had the government diversified the energy supply by incorporating a higher share of renewables in the energy mix.

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      ACJCE decries blanket removal of energy subsidies, asks IMF to rethink its policies

      • Calendar Jun 1, 2022

      Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, June 1, 2022: As Pakistan seeks yet another International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout package, a civil society group has asked the global lender to support socially just and green financing solutions in Pakistan as well as debt-for-nature swaps to break the cycle of IMF debts that the country is trapped in over years.

      In a letter written to the IMF, Alliance for Climate Justice & Clean Energy, a coalition of civil society organizations working on energy transition in Pakistan, raised their concerns about the ongoing IMF-government talks regarding the energy sector reforms and energy pricing mechanisms. ACJCE shared the details of the letter in a virtual media briefing on Wednesday.

      Speaking to the audience, senior journalist Badar Alam said that the IMF’s insistence on a blanket removal of energy subsidies will leave the poorer and marginalized sections of the society worse off. “IMF’s method of removing these subsidies without first consulting the civil society, people’s representatives and Pakistan-based researchers through a multi-stakeholder dialogue will only create more problems by increasing inflation and unemployment.”

      Badar added that the government will also face a serious credibility crisis if it agrees to the IMF’s conditionalities without taking the people into confidence. “If [government] is in the interest of strengthening democracy in Pakistan, then all dealings with the IMF should be made public, discussed thoroughly and then implemented after proper safety nets have been provided to those who are at the losing end of the policies that emerge out of these dealings,” he added.

      Speaking about the environmental and social repercussions of the IMF interventions, Zain Moulvi, Associate at Alternative Law Collective, termed the ongoing talks between the IMF and government futile. He said, “The most alarming is the complete lack of attention to Pakistan’s climate emergency – despite the IMF’s decision last year to mainstream climate change matters across all areas of its mandate. We are yet to see the Fund develop a concrete program to support Pakistan’s climate change action and energy transitions.”

      Zain further said that considering the radical changes in a global context, the Extended Finance Facility program from pre-Covid and pre-Ukraine war times needs a thorough re-evaluation of its terms and loan conditionalities. “The simplistic focus on removing fuel and electricity subsidies will only add to wide-scale inequity and energy poverty. Moreover, with no participation of vulnerable communities in these talks, the entire process lacks the legitimacy or efficacy needed to address the current economic and energy crisis,” he added.


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        Experts discuss ‘hydrology and its nexus with energy, economy and environment’ at webinar

        • Calendar Apr 28, 2022

        Islamabad, April 28, 2022: Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy member Indus Consortium organized a webinar on “Hydrology and its nexus with energy, economy and environment,” in collaboration with Grow Green Network.

        “World Commission on Dams’ [WCD] framework covers key areas for improved planning of dams,” said Co-executive Director of International Rivers Network, Josh Klemm. This includes, he said, the need to fully assess all available options for meeting water and energy needs, addressing outstanding social issues from existing dams before building new ones, gaining public acceptance for key decisions and the importance of protecting healthy rivers.

        “Unfortunately, many of the key principles are still not practiced today and WCD has largely been forgotten or deliberately ignored today,” Mr Klemm added.

        Addressing the audience, renowned hydrologist and water expert Dr. Hassan Abbas highlighted wind and solar as the alternatives to mega structures for sustainable water and energy solutions.

        Investigative journalist Zahid Ali presented the case study of the Neelum Jhelum hydropower project and presented its economic impacts on taxpayers. Former Naib Nazim for Badin, Abdul Aziz Dero, shared his concerns regarding the deterioration of the Indus Delta.

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          Thar residents highlight benefits of Peoples Tribunals at reflection seminar

          • Calendar Apr 22, 2022

          Islamkot, April 2, 2022: A reflection seminar on the process of the Peoples Tribunals was organized in Islamkot, Sindh, which was attended by a large number of Thar locals, including female residents, who are victims of coal power projects and coal mining in Thar.

          During the reflection seminar, a short documentary was also featured which showcased the issues arising due to coal mining in Thar. The reflection seminar on these Peoples Tribunals was also attended by civil society representatives and journalists also participated in the event. The seminar was organized by Thar Samaji Tehreek, in collaboration with Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy (ACJCE).

          The Peoples Tribunal is an initiative of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), a member of the ACJCE. It was launched over a year and a half ago with the aim to raise awareness among the local Tharis on the adverse impacts of the ongoing coal mining projects on their lives and the environment and also hear the grievances of the victims. So far, around 15 Peoples Tribunals have been held, with many more to planned to be organized.

          Appreciating such initiatives to educate the people, representatives from the local community – namely Ahmad Amin Lanjo, Mohammad Ramzan Halepoto, Abdul Aziz Qadri, Bhagat Rasoo Mall, Mohammad Nihal Mehranpoto and others, said that they and other locals were unaware of their rights prior to Peoples Tribunals. They added that they had suffered due to a lack of awareness and knowledge about their rights when their ancestral land was taken away from them by the government and the coal mining companies to set up coal power plants.

          Mohammad Aslam from Thar Samaji Tehreek, a social movement by the locals, said that previously, a common patwari would threaten the locals of taking their land from them. However, he said, that was no longer the case.  Aslam added that the coal mining companies had made every effort to fail the Peoples Tribunals but could not do so.

          Yasmin Shah, daughter of the late PFF Chairman, Muhammad Ali Shah, said that her father was a movement in himself. He was not just a leader of fishermen, but he also struggled for the people of Thar on the ground.

          Azhar Lashari from Policy Research Institute for Equitable Development said that the payment for land taken from the locals for these coal projects was only made to the owners of ‘survey land’ by the coal companies, while yaksala and gowchar land were paid no compensation. However, the most affected were the landless men and women who were paid no compensation, he added.

          Social leader Irshad Laghari presented the case of Thari people and read the Sindhi version of the indictment prepared during the previous process of Peoples Tribunals. He said that the Thar coal companies have no sympathies with Thar and its people.

          The seminar was also addressed by Social Movement president Amir Hassan and general secretary Rasooll Bakhsh and Mehwish Laghari and Shahid Shah from the Visionary Forum. Mustafa Ali Shah, son of the late PFF Chairman, Kashif Ali Shah and Farhan Wagan were also present on the occasion.

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            Coal mining companies in Thar violating Environment Protection Act by dumping toxic water in clean wells: analysts

            • Calendar Mar 25, 2022

            Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, March 25, 2022: Coal-inflicted miseries of Tharis have started to complicate as their dug wells are now increasingly becoming contaminated due to the toxic waste being discharged by the mining and thermal power companies. Groundwater degradation in Thar, a painful occurrence after coal-induced displacement, dispossession and destitution, was a violation of certain environmental laws of the country, stated the experts.

            This was revealed in a webinar titled ‘Coal-induced Water Woes of Tharis’ held on Friday by Alliance for Climate Justice & Clean Energy (ACJCE), a coalition of think tanks and civil society organisations working on energy transition in Pakistan. A short documentary was also screened at the webinar, highlighting the ground reality and magnitude of water-related issues in Thar.

            Giving an insight into the problems being created by coal mining companies in Thar, Azhar Lashari from Policy Research Institute for Equitable Development said, “The coal rush in Thar has been depleting and poisoning the precarious groundwater resources of the region and making lives of locals miserable. Percolation of toxic water from Gorano and Dukar Chaou reservoirs, lowering water table around mining sites and dumping of wastewater in farmlands have been posing a serious threat to the ecosystem and public health,” he said.

            Lashari added that while the water level of the dug-wells is depleting in some villages, the sweet water of the dug-wells surrounding the wastewater reservoirs is becoming toxic. “The incidents of malarial fever and livestock casualties have significantly increased in the area,” he added.

            Muhammad Abdul Rafay from Alternative Law Collective said that the testimonies of Tharis reveal illegalities being committed by coal mining and power generation companies. “The release of contaminated water into agricultural and grazing lands by the companies and its reinjection into underground aquifers violates the Sindh Environment Protection Act, the National Water Policy 2018 and their generation licenses issued by National Electric Power Regulatory Authority,” he said. Rafay added that Pakistan’s superior courts have repeatedly held such practices a violation of the constitutional right to life and a breach of public trust.

            Two representatives from the Thar community also discussed the water-related difficulties they have been facing in the region. Rani Bheel, a female affected resident of Bitra Village, Block-II, said that the coal companies were releasing poisonous water openly with no regard to human life. “This is also harming our livestock. More than 50 buffaloes and cows, 70 plus camels and over 500 goats and sheep have died from drinking poisonous water,” she added.

            Bheel further said that the clean water wells becoming saline because of the toxic water has added to the troubles of the women, as they have to arrange potable water for their households from remote places.

            Sharing the harmful impacts of the dams built by these companies in the area, Ameer Hassan, an office-bearer of Thar Samaji Tehreek, said that 20 dug-wells have become saline after the development of Gorano Dam.

            The local community representatives shared that more than 50 children living in the villages near Gorano Dam have died in the last few years from mosquito-borne diseases spread due to toxic water.

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              Experts urge World Bank not to sabotage Pakistan’s energy sector green energy transition and re-direct it towards a renewable future

              • Calendar Mar 22, 2022

              KARACHI, LAHORE and ISLAMABAD, March 22, 2022: The World Bank has attracted severe criticism for its role in pushing Pakistan’s energy sector into debt and sabotaging its transition into clean energy. Experts associated with at least two international think tanks believe that the bank’s support for Thar coal power project will help them soon become the largest source of air pollutants, such as mercury and CO2, in South Asia.

              Sharing the findings of their research studies, these experts shed light on the World Bank’s role in Pakistan’s energy and environmental crisis at an online panel discussion held on Tuesday. The webinar was organised by the Alliance for Climate Justice & Clean Energy (ACJCE), a coalition of think tanks and civil society organisations working on energy transition in Pakistan.

              Discussing her research study, Heike Mainhardt, Senior Advisor at Urgewald, a Germany-based non-profit organisation, said the World Bank’s technical assistance in Pakistan provided a road map to attract investors into country’s coal sector from 2009 to 2012. “Arguably, the Bank’s most important actions were tariff policy reforms that made new coal power investments in Pakistan the world’s most profitable. As a result, Pakistan is tied to very high capacity payments for coal power, leading to high subsidies and consumer tariffs,” she said. Heiki added that it is the World Bank’s responsibility to help Pakistan re-direct its power sector development from coal to renewable energy.

              Fran Witt, Campaigns Lead at Recourse, a Netherlands-based not-for-profit organisation, discussed the research study co-published by Recourse and Alternative Law Collective (ALC), a Pakistan-based firm. She said that the World Bank’s Development Policy Finance (DPF) for Pakistan’s energy sector amounted to $1.4billion from 2020 to 2021 and therefore, has a huge impact on energy policy and investment. She suggested that all fossil fuels must be included on the Excluded Expenditures list for DPF, through which the World Bank can support the Pakistani government to build its energy from Pakistan’s sustainable renewable energy sources instead of relying on expensive coal or LNG imports.

              Zain Moulvi, Director Research at ALC, said that the World Bank’s tacit support of Thar coal and its damaging DPF loan conditionality demonstrates the complex mechanisms through which it can instigate crises in Pakistan’s energy sector. “The Thar coal projects will significantly raise electricity tariffs and have already caused massive displacement and loss of livelihood in Thar. They are further projected to cause up to 29,000 air pollution-related deaths,” Zain said. He added that the Bank’s flagship PACE project – supposedly meant to facilitate Pakistan’s transition to cheap and clean energy – has instead forced the country to plan its energy mix around costly, socially and environmentally destructive fossil fuels and large hydro projects.

              Appreciating the research studies’ authors for shedding light on international financial institutions’ support for dirty and costly projects in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Global South, Ahsan Kamal, Lecturer at Quaid-i-Azam University said, “Despite claims of being a leader in knowledge and investment for development, the World Bank has a long history of ignoring definitive research that shows coal, gas and large hydropower projects damaging to the environment, humans, and economy,” he said.


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                Civil society demands IMF to revoke GST on renewable energy technologies

                • Calendar Feb 1, 2022

                KARACHI, LAHORE and ISLAMABAD, February 1, 2022: Demanding the government to revoke imposition of general sales tax on solar panels and electric vehicles, a civil society group striving to promote renewable energy has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to play a responsible part in developing socially just and environmental friendly financing solutions in Pakistan.

                Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy (ACJCE) has made these demands in a letter written to the IMF board ahead of its meeting for Pakistan’s sixth review, following the recent imposition of 20% GST on solar panels in Pakistan. ACJCE shared details of the letter in a media briefing held on Tuesday, where the speakers assailed the tax imposition and discussed its repercussions.

                Speaking at the briefing, Zain Moulvi, Associate at Alternative Law Collective, said that the hastily passed mini budget is a grim reminder of how IMF’s policies and lending practices can sabotage Pakistan’s social and environmental planning. “The new IMF-backed fiscal reforms include heavy taxes on solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles, which are likely to cripple the renewable energy market,” he said. Moulvi emphasized that the renewables are Pakistan’s biggest hope for cheap electricity, adding that these taxes are inconsistent with Pakistan’s Alternative and Renewable Energy and National Electric Vehicle policies”.

                Haneea Isaad, Research Associate at Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, discussed the financial impacts of the added taxation. “At present, the latest tariffs given out by National Electric Power Regulatory Authority for utility scale solar/wind power indicate a levelized cost of generation of Rs. 6-7/KWh. This range holds true for residential/commercial rooftop photovoltaic installations too. Imposing the added tax can significantly raise the costs for these projects,” she said.

                Isaad emphasized such decisions will hurt investor’s confidence, while small and mid-size enterprises and off-grid and lower-income households will be the most affected segment as the added taxes will increase costs.

                Waqas Moosa, Member Executive Committee of Pakistan Solar Association (PSA), revealed that solar deployments in Pakistan are expected to fall by at least 20% in 2022 as solar equipment’s cost will increase by around 20% due to the added taxes. “Consumers who are unable to shift to solar due to higher cost will end up paying an extra Rs. 175 billion in electricity costs over 20 years,” PSA representative said.

                He questioned whether putting the extra cost on solar panels is worth it as the expected revenue from one year of GST is only about Rs. 16 billion to Rs. 20 billion. “For each solar solution not deployed, fossil-fuel based power sources will instead be used over the next 20 years, which is the life of solar equipment,” he said.

                Research Analyst at Renewables First, Mustafa Amjad, pointed out that the government is contradicting its own mantra of a green Pakistan by taxing these technologies. “Presently, local development for solar panel and renewable energy technologies is negligible in Pakistan. At such a crucial stage, where both these industries require fiscal support, such taxation will damage the development of renewable energy, as well as Pakistan’s electric vehicle market,” he said.

                The government, he said, is jeopardizing the take-off promised for these technologies. Amjad said, “These increased costs would ultimately be transferred to the consumer and result in higher tariff rates.”

                Transportation already accounts for 43% of the airborne emissions in the country and the EV Policy states that the “initial years of EV penetration in Pakistan are not possible without governmental support.” The policy also argues that the “initial incentives, tax breaks and benefits will pay for itself with the savings in fuel import bill, reduction in emission related expenses, usage of idle electricity capacity and income from charging revenues”, estimating annual savings of around PKR 110 Billion per year for the first five years of the policy.

                Read the complete letter here.

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                  Civil society demands establishing parliamentary commission on power sector audit report

                  • Calendar Apr 30, 2020

                  30th April 2020, Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad: A civil society group striving to promote renewable energy and climate justice has welcomed the recently-released power sector audit report and demanded establishment of a parliamentary commission to further examine its findings and look into the entire matter afresh with a broader social, economic, financial and environmental lens in the current scenario of COVID-19.

                  While terming the audit report ‘first step in right direction’, the civil society group called for continuation of the power sector audit process and making it democratic, broad-based, citizens-driven, climate focused and policy-oriented. The group, namely Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy (ACJCE), made these demands in an online press conference here on Thursday.

                  The current patterns of development and investment in power sector, which are generously skewed in favor of coal and other fossil fuels based power project, are bound to complicate the ever-increasing problems of high cost of electricity, circular debt, capacity charges, economic inefficiency, social disruptions and environmental destructions. Contribution of coal in national energy mix, which was just zero few years ago, has reached 32 percent this year.

                  Coal-mining and coal power plant in Thar had already been creating serious problems of displacement, livelihood losses and environmental degradation. In Tharparkar, 4,000 billion gallons of groundwater will be extracted for coal mining and 8,500 billion gallons for producing 10 gigawatt power in 30 years. With an already fragile hydrology, Thar will face serious water stress due over-extraction of groundwater for coal power projects.

                  Before the proposed parliamentary commission was established, all the ongoing projects based on coal and other fossil fuels, particularly in Thar coalfield Block-I, should be stopped with immediate effect, asked Muhammad Ali Shah, Syed Ghazanfar Abbas and Azhar Lashari representatives of ACJCE— while addressing the online press conference from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad respectively.

                  The said the committee had overlooked the problem of current 30 percent overcapacity in power generation, which with the implementation of numerous ongoing and pipeline projects of coal based power plants, will increase manifold in future and create the issue of stranded assets. They said the power needs of the country were bound to decrease due to slow economic growth as an aftermath of pandemic. They demanded the government to rationalize declining power needs, revisit all coal-based power projects, and prioritize transitioning to clean and green energy.

                  They criticized the process adopted by a nine-member committee constituted by ministry of energy and power for conducting power sector audit. They said the audit process was limited in its scope and devoid of broad-based consultations in its method. Instead of identifying different actors and factors behind ever increasing electricity costs and circular debt, the committee’s work and report were rather aimed at finding a scapegoat, they said. Notwithstanding the fact that National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) was a key player in power sector, they said, the committee did not take its role into account, and ignored any violations of rules by NEPRA. Instead, the report lays all the blame on the door of Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

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                    Online press conference held on land acquisition and resettlement in Thar

                    • Calendar Nov 24, 2020

                    KARACHI, LAHORE, ISLAMABAD: The civil society representatives have showed their grave concerns over ever-increasing irregularities and human rights violations in the ongoing land acquisition and resettlement processes taking place without any policy in Thar. They demanded the government to adopt a ‘people centered’ policy to deal with land acquisition and resettlement related to coal mining, power plants and associated projects in Thar.

                    While terming the proposed Thar land acquisition and resettlement policy as crucial to deal with the peculiar conditions of the local communities and their land entitlements, they said the policy must be developed through a broader consultative process, involving the local communities as a primary stakeholder.

                    They raised these concerns and demands in an online press conference which was organized under the auspices of Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy (ACJCE) here on Tuesday.

                    Muhammad Ali Shah, chairman of Pakistan Fisher-folk Forum (PFF), said the promise of progress and prosperity, which the government made with the local people of Thar, had gone sour in the face of ever increasing injustices being meted out to them in land acquisition for coal power projects.

                    Dispossession, displacement, deprivation and disempowerment are all that the local people of Thar have gained in wake of land acquisition for coal power projects in their homeland, he said.

                    He lamented that the ongoing land acquisition and resettlement processes in Thar were characterized by arbitrariness, exclusionary decision-making, non-transparency and extraordinary delays in payment of compensation amounts. While terming the private companies as the sole beneficiaries of existing state of affairs, he said acquisition of any more land in Thar must be stopped with immediate effect till the adoption of the proposed policy.

                    Advocate Syed Ghazenfur, a representative of Alternative Law Collective (ALC), said the laws like Land Acquisition Act 1894, under which land acquisition was taking place in Thar, were the relics of Pakistan’s colonial past. The citizens’ rights to property under those colonial laws, he said, were subject to state’s unscrupulous demands for expropriation.

                    Employing the emergency provisions of the colonial law in Thar was meant to bypass the due process for land acquisition, avoid protection of rights enshrined in constitution and deprive the local communities of adequate amount of compensation against their land and other assets, he said.

                    While terming the land acquisition and resettlement processes in Thar as highly lopsided, he lamented that the government was prioritizing commercial interests of private companies over the basic human rights of its citizens.

                    Jan Muhammad Halepoto, a community representative from Thar, said depriving the locals of their ancestral homes, native villages, farmlands and pastures was causing poverty and destitution in Thar. Provision of no alternative land or any compensation against the pastures (gowchar) acquired for mining and power plants was causing serious livelihood challenges for an overwhelmingly livestock dependent local population.

                    He said instead of forcefully buying land from the locals and completely alienating them from their land in Thar, the government should acquire their land on a mutually-agreed, time-bound lease which should be paid yearly.

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