Consultative workshop on ‘Utility Scale Renewable Energy Transformations’

  • Calendar Jul 27, 2022

Islamabad, July 27, 2022: ACJCE member Policy Research Institute for Equitable Development (PRIED) organized a consultative session with the relevant stakeholders on utility-scale renewable energy (RE) transformations, with the aim to identify barriers and discuss viable strategies to overcome those barriers for utility-scale RE transformations.

The session was attended by around 20 people. Key stakeholders from the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), Women in Energy, Renewables First, National University of Sciences & Technology (NUST), Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), legal and technical advisors participated in the consultation.

The aim of the discussion was to explore the potential of RE transition in Pakistan and its barriers and blockers. The discussion also focused on understanding viable strategies and actions for capturing opportunities for RE uptake and removal of all forms of barriers.

During the session, the relevant stakeholders in energy transition identified the potential measures to foster an accelerated transition towards solar and wind. They also discussed the need to enhance stakeholders’ coordination to take forward collective efforts for advancing solar and wind uptake. The responses of all the stakeholders in the discussion will be consolidated in a situation brief report, which will be issued in the coming weeks.

The consultative session was moderated by Rida Fatima, Researcher at PRIED. The key speakers included Dr. Irfan Yousaf, consultant at NEPRA, Engr Assad Mehmood, energy specialist and technical consultant, Ameena Sohail, legal consultant and board member of IPS and IESCO, Zeeshan Ashfaq, managing director Pakistan at SOWITEC, Sadia Qayyum, energy specialist at World Bank, and Dr. Ali Abbas Kazmi, assistant professor at NUST.

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    ACJCE and Renewable Energy Coalition members meet Secretary of Energy Department

    • Calendar

    KARACHI, June 16: Abu Bakar Ahmed Madni, Secretary of Energy Department, Government of Sindh has said that besides coal, the provincial government is focusing on generating power through renewable energy sources and for this purpose, many projects for solar, wind and biomass are under construction, which would generate sufficient power for zero load-shedding in the province.

    So far, a total of 1,235 Mega Watt (MW) of power is being generated through wind energy by 24 independent power producers (IPPs) in Sindh and an additional 610 MW are under construction through 12 other IPPs, he said. These included 300 MW power generation through four Chinese consortium companies under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he informed at a briefing with the civil society organisations, working on renewable energy at a local hotel on Thursday.

    The meeting was organized by The Knowledge Forum and attended by the representatives of the Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy (ACJCE) and Renewable Energy Coalition (REC).

    “Our mission is to make Sindh self-sufficient in power generation and export surplus to other provinces by 2022,” Mr Madni said adding that Sindh has a potential of a generation of 55,000 MW only through wind energy along 60 km wide-170 km deep Jhimpir-Gharo-Keti Bandar wind corridor.

    So far, the provincial government has issued 61 letters of Intent for the development of solar, wind and other projects in the province. For this purpose, over 1,000 acres of land have been leased out to companies for renewable projects and more than 40,000 acres reserved for renewable energy parks.

    Sindh is the first province which has established its power transmission and dispatch company, he said adding that the first project of a 95 KM, 132KV double circuit line from Nooriabad to Karachi has been completed in January 2018 at Rs 2,000 million. The STDC is transmitting 100 MW to Karachi Electric (KE) system, he added.

    Talking about the reports about handing over of Hyderabad and Sukkur Electric Supply companies to the provincial government he said the Sindh government would look into the liabilities before taking over these two power companies.

    In the solar energy sector, he pointed out that the Sindh government had completed some off-grid energy projects as a pilot project between 2014-2016. These included the electrification of 350 schools in Nangarparkar taluka in Tharparkar district, 140 houses in Sanghar district and 5 villages in Ghotki district. More IPPs are working on the production of solar power, he said adding that at least two companies are working on the production of 100 MW at Gharo. At least 3 projects of solar power with a generating capacity of 150 MW are under construction, he added.

    Talking about coal power plants in Sindh, the Secretary of the Energy Department said two power plants with a capacity of 330 MW each at Block-2 of Thar Coal field are producing power, which is liked with the national grid. The 250-kilometre-long high-voltage, direct current (HVDC) 500 KV transmission line between Thar coalfield to Matiari (in Sindh) has been laid down at a cost of Rs 22,305.73 million, he added.

    Mr. Madni said that five coal-field blocks in Tharparkar district have been developed so far and open-pit mines have been developed in two blocks. The work on Block-2 started earlier, which was commissioned in 2019 and its coal is being used in power generation at two power plants.

    The provincial government’s energy department plans to dedicate the 6th Block for producing gas through coal under the coal-gasification method. This gasification method would be different from the earlier plant which was installed by nuclear scientist Dr. Samar Mubarkmand. This coal gasification would be made from the coal extracted through open-pit mining, he explained.

    Talking about replacing the imported coal with Thar coal, he said the government has in principle decided to use the 20:80 formula for the power plants which are using coal as an energy source. Their 20 per cent coal requirement would be fulfilled by Thar coal. He said reliance on import fuel should be reduced to save foreign exchange.

    Ms. Anis Haroon, a Member of the National Commission for Human Rights emphasized the need for shifting focus on solar energy in Thar. He said due to the coal project, the local communities are suffering and the environment of the area is destroyed. She said people’s concerns should be addressed at the provincial government level.

    Earlier, in her welcome address, Ms. Zeenia Shaukat of TKF said that civil society organizations in the country are working to the promotion of renewable energies in Pakistan.

    Mr. Zainuddin and Muhammad Rafay from Alternative Law Collective, Mustafa Amjad and Zeeshan Ashfaq from World Wind Energy Association, Hussain Assad from Policy Research Institute for Equitable Development, Yasir Hussain from Green Pakistan Coalition, Mustafa Ali Shah, Ms. Mahvish and Aslam Mallah from Visionary Forum, Aadil Ayub from Climate Action Pakistan, Iftikhar Ahmed from Energy Department also spoke on the occasion.

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      ACJCE member meets Sindh Minister for Environment and Climate Change

      • Calendar May 24, 2022

      Karachi, May 24, 2022: A delegation of civil society and environmental activists led by Ms. Zeenia Shaukat, Director of The Knowledge Forum (TKF), met with Sindh Minister for Environment and Climate Change Mr. Ismail Rahoo at his office and handed over recommendations on the forthcoming Climate Change Policy of Sindh.

      The delegation included senior journalist Tahir Hassan Khan, Ms. Nagham Iqtidar and Mr. Shujauddin Qureshi of the TKF, Mr. Zahid Farooque of Urban Resource Centre and Mr. Yasir Husain, Founder, Green Pakistan Coalition.

      Mr. Rahoo appreciated the efforts of the civil society for mitigating the impacts of climate change and expressed gratitude for the submission of recommendations regarding Sindh’s Climate Policy. He underlined the need for creating awareness among the general public about the impacts of climate change and how to mitigate its effects. He said the provincial government has finalized the Sindh Climate Change Policy, which is being vetted by the law department and then the provincial Cabinet would approve it soon.

      Mr. Rahoo said due to is the geographic position of the tail-end of the River Indus, Sindh province is suffering a shortage of water these days. An awareness campaign is launched to educate people about changes in weather patterns due to climate change and how to use river water more efficiently.

      He said water flow in the River Indus has declined over the years due to climate change. River water’s flow further reduces in downstream Sukkur barrage as due to wide bed of the river in the middle of Sindh’s areas, the river water is wasted and evaporated and when it reaches at Kotri barrage, its flow is negligible. Downstream Kotri barrage districts especially Indus Delta areas suffer dryness for most of the year.

      The United Nations team had recently visited the Indus Delta areas and they informed the provincial government that the international body plans to initiate a project to save the Indus Delta area, he added.

      Mr. Rahoo said Sindh Climate Change Policy has been devised after thorough consultations with all the stakeholders including industries, civil society and climate change activists.

      The civil society activists informed the minister that The Knowledge Forum, in collaboration with the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), organized a consultation to discuss Sindh’s Climate Change Policy and Implementation Framework on April 15, 2022, at the NCHR office in Karachi.

      The consultation was attended among others by officials of the Climate Change Department, Energy Department, civil society and climate activists.

      Ms. Zeenia Shaukat informed the minister that a set of recommendations have been compiled after the consultation, which can be incorporated into the forthcoming policy, approved by the Cabinet.

      She mentioned the participants of the consultation had critically identified a lack of action on the part of SEPA with regard to the revision of air quality standards and publishing data on the environment every year. Given that SEPA has not done its job, the policy should suggest a mechanism that may ensure that SEPA delivers on its mandate.

      There is no mention of the role of the District Disaster Management Authorities (DDMA) in the Sindh Climate Change Policy. Only Deputy Commissioner’s office has been identified. This is in line with the current provincial government’s practice of relegating all disaster-related responsibilities to the deputy commissioner system. Given the importance of the district disaster management authority that specializes in disaster response, a clear mention in the policy would help promote the significance of well-established specialized institutions at the district level.

      The policy needs to review the existing practices and their failures. For example, there is a need to reconsider the viability of relying on self-reporting on Social Impact Assessment and Environment Impact Assessment by industries. The industries comply with this obligation by using the services of hired consultants whose credibility and transparency are doubted since they are being paid by the industry. There is a strong need to develop governmental capacity along with local CSO/NGO participation and the involvement of the local community so that there is a more responsible and accountable structure to cover impact assessment.

      The policy suggests a disoriented approach toward the community. It blames indigenous communities for the shrinking mass of rangelands, forests, and mangroves while making no mention of the role of the timber mafia, industrialization, and commercialization in the depletion of natural resources. Targeting economically deprived communities for creating conditions of climate change not only signals an unjust approach, but it also suggests the policy-makers lopsided view of the causes behind climate change and deliberate avoidance of the acknowledgement of powerful actors and institutions responsible for environmental degradation in the province.

      The policy emphasizes ensuring and securing the interests of vulnerable groups. However, a consultative plan in this regard has not been spelled out.

       

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        ACJCE member holds discussion on ‘Review of Sindh Climate Change Policy and Implementation Framework’

        • Calendar Apr 15, 2022

        KARACHI, April 15, 2022: Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy member the Knowledge Forum organized a consultation on the ‘Review of the Sindh Climate Change Policy and Implementation Framework’ in collaboration with the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR).

        The consultation was attended by environmental experts, climate change and rights activists, lawyers, journalists and civil society. Member of NCHR from Sindh, Anis Haroon, presided over the meeting. Prominent names who took participated in the consultation session included Director of Sindh Environmental Protection Agency Waqar Hussain Phulpoto, Energy Department, Additional Secretary, Dr. Abdul Shakoor Abro, Senior Trade Unions leader Habibuddin Junaidi, Senior Urban Researcher Muhammad Toheed, Director of Aurat Foundation Mahnaz Rahman, Member of Sindh Human Rights Commission Pushpa Kumari, Gender Expert Sarah Zaman, Zahid Farooq from Urban Resource Centre, senior lawyer Altaf Hussain Khoso, Maaz Tanveer from HANDS, Abdul Raafay from Alternative Law Collectives, Iram Aijaz from Pakistan Red Crescent Society, environmental activists Yasir Husain, Basil Andrews and others.

        The participants pointed out various missing elements in the Sindh Climate Change policy. They emphasized that the policy does not recognize concretization and carbon emission-intensive energy generation such as coal and gas as problem areas. The ongoing expansion of coal power plants in Tharparkar is likely to lead Pakistan into becoming one of the largest air pollutant, mercury and CO2 emissions hotspots in South Asia.

        They also noted that the Sindh province is a fossil gas-rich region, which contributes about 70% of the total gas production in the country. However, gas production and expansion in LNG plants are deepening Sindh’s exposure to climate change risks as natural gas and LNG in particular are linked with high methane emission potential.

        The Knowledge Forum has compiled a set of recommendations drawn from the consultation, which are due to be shared with the Environment, Climate Change & Coastal Development Department of Sindh in the coming days.

         

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          Limited financing schemes restricting domestic users to install rooftop solar systems: study

          • Calendar Sep 30, 2021

          Islamabad, September 27, 2021: A recent study shows that a major hurdle in the installation of home-based rooftop solar systems is arranging money for them. Its authors say that the demand and need for these solar systems is rising constantly but difficulties in financing them are hindering their diffusion in areas where they are needed the most.

          The study titled ‘Unlocking the Economic Potential of Rooftop Solar PV in Pakistan’, carried out by Rural Development Policy Institute (RDPI), was launched in a webinar on Thursday. The study highlights the potential of rooftop solar PV in Pakistan and shows the unequal picture of solar financing landscape along with several barriers restricting rooftop solar drive.

          While presenting the findings of the study, Naila Saleh—author of the study and Project Lead at RDPI–said, “Financing is critically important for transition towards capital intensive technologies such as solar PV characterized by high upfront cost.” Speaking about the concessionary financing scheme introduced by State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to promote rooftop solar systems, she said that restricted lending under the scheme and difficulties in acquiring finance due to stringent securitization has limited the scheme’s scope.

          Research Associate at RDPI and study’s co-author, Talha Rashid, spoke about the need to introduce operating expenses business model (OPEX) in Pakistan, which currently not even a single solar company is using at domestic level. He said that the growth of rooftop solar can increase rapidly through adopting OPEX – a system in which the developer owns the solar project and the consumer only has to pay for the energy generated.

          Syed Aqeel Jafri, Director Policy, Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) said that several measures had already been taken to promote rooftop solar, which includes certification of solar vendors and revisions in net-metering regulations. He added that AEDB envisions greening the power sector through renewable power generation.

          Musa Khan Durrani, Head of Strategic Alliances, SkyElectric Pvt. Ltd. and GM Business Development, Saif Group, said it was essential that SBP pushes commercial banks to pursue solar financing by aligning incentive structure vis-a-vis other SBP schemes and through active monitoring. He stressed on the need to engage distribution companies, along with power purchase agreement financers or banks, to provide OPEX model services to customers.

          Asad Mahmood, Manager Technical/Company Secretary, National Energy Efficiency & Conservation said, “Currently, majority end-users in Pakistan have 1-phase meters, whereas net-metering applies only to 3-phase meters. This is a binding constraint that is restricting distributed generation participation by the majority. Most solar vendors are also not providing after sales services, causing dissatisfaction of solar PV consumers. Customized solutions is also something vendors mostly don’t look into.” Zarak Khan from State Bank of Pakistan also participated in the webinar as one of the panelists.

          • Rooftop Solar PV
          • Solar energy

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          Study highlights plight of Tharis due to enforced shifts in land use and socio-ecological patterns caused by Thar coal projects

          • Calendar Sep 15, 2021

          KARACHI, LAHORE AND ISLAMABAD, September 15, 2021: Coal power projects were launched in Thar seven years ago, but even today these projects continue to threaten the Thari rights and way being as the local communities and their future generations are forced to face severe impacts of land dispossession and bear the heavy cost of ‘transforming’ Pakistan, a new study has revealed.

          The research study has been conducted by Rural Development Policy Institute (RDPI) and launched by Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy (ACJCE), a civil society group endeavoring for a transition in Pakistan’s energy sector. The research titled “Coal Rush: The Impacts of Coal Power Generation on Tharis’ Land Rights” was launched in a webinar on Wednesday and was attended by experts and activists.

          Lead author of the research, Lecturer, Quaid-i-Azam University, Dr. Ahsan Kamal discussed the key findings of the study and shared an analysis of the land and coal-related issues caused by the coal power projects. He pointed out that Tharis are absent from debates on Thar coal, despite their numerous protests. He added that research shows Thari’s land use is dynamic and environmentally friendly, and local culture and economy depends on historic access to private, public and common land for grazing and cropping.

          Dr. Kamal further said that coal projects are increasing land and water insecurity, which will have long term impacts for current and future generations. “We cannot sacrifice our people for profit. Thari voices must be central to all conversations on Pakistan’s energy future,” he urged.

          Discussing the legal and policy gaps in land acquisition for coal power projects in Thar, Associate at Alternative Law Collective, Mr. Zain Moulvi said that Thar’s experience with coal projects has unveiled the flawed and draconian colonial era land acquisition laws and procedures in Pakistan. “Legal and regulatory reforms are long overdue and a comprehensive rehabilitation and resettlement policy at federal and provincial levels is an urgent need of the hour,” he said.

          Mr. Moulvi urged that the Thari people’s historical traditions of land use, particularly their system of collective rights in grazing land, discloses a uniquely intimate, sustainable and mutually respectful relationship between human communities, animals, land and natural resources. “These customs serve both as a reminder of how misguided our present developmental practices have been and a source of guidance for imagining a more ecologically responsible future,” he added.

          Sharing experiences of communities regarding land acquisition and displacement, Mr. Abdul Aziz from Thar Samaji Tehreek, Islamkot, expressed his concerns of Thar coal companies causing devastating impacts on the locals by making anti-people land policies. He said that as per law, the locals should get survey lands (privately owned land), but the coal companies don’t abide by it. They don’t pay if any mistake or complication is found in the survey land and they are grabbing lands based on the Land Acquisition Act 1894, he added.

          Mr. Muhammad Aslam from Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) discussed broader issues of land dispossession and details of irregularities in Thar lands. He revealed that after completing all the formalities, the survey lands are fully legal in all means based on government documents. However, he said, even in survey lands, they create irregularities by changing survey numbers, changing the actual names and replacing/displacing survey numbers. Mr. Aslam added that various tactics such as non-payment, prolonged office visits, police action and deductions in compensations, are used to make to cause trouble to the locals to make them abandon their lands so that the companies can occupy them.

            Pakistan’s cement sector single largest source of CO2 emission, study reveals

            • Calendar Jul 30, 2021

            KARACHI, LAHORE, ISLAMABAD, JULY 30, 2021 (FRIDAY): A new research study has revealed that Pakistan’s cement industry is the single largest source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emission – a highly hazardous gas – whereas various elements of the country’s energy sector are responsible for 90% of the CO2 emissions.

            The study titled ‘CO2 Emissions from Pakistan’s Energy Sector’, prepared by an independent European environmental think tank – Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) – also shows that CO2 emissions from consumption of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal in Pakistan have more than doubled in the last two decades. These findings were disclosed in a virtual study launch organized jointly by CREA and Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy (ACJCE) on Friday. Speakers for the virtual launch included local and international industry experts.

            Speaking at the launch, Mr. Lauri Myllyvirta, Lead Analyst at CREA and one of the authors of the study, shared that Pakistan’s CO2 emissions per capita remain low, however, energy-related emissions have doubled over the past two decades. He said that the power sector is responsible for over one quarter of the total emissions, while fossil fuels are responsible for 2/3 of power generation. He added that this share has remained constant over the past decade, which indicates that there is little progress in moving towards clean power generation. Mr. Myllyvirta further said that the industrial sector – cement industries in particular – is the largest contributor of carbon emissions and is responsible for 1/3 increase over the past decade.

            Independent Analyst Mr. Dawar Butt pointed out that Pakistan has committed to shift 30% to electric vehicles and produce 60% of power from renewables by 2030. However, he added, fuel use trends and government incentives portray a different picture. Mr. Butt was of the view that the cement industry, which is leading the construction industry lobbying for lower taxes and amnesties, has so far not been studied in detail.

            He further said that the current analysis so far limits itself to CO2 emissions and urged that a more detailed assessment needs to be done to account for the massive pollution costs that Pakistan is paying in terms of public health.

            Mr. Zain Moulvi, Associate at Alternative Law Collective, spoke in length about the need to bring strategies to manage the damaging environmental impacts caused by the ever-increasing carbon emissions. He said that these strategies must have an immediate upgrade of environmental quality standards and monitoring procedures, both of which are out of sync with best global practices.

            Dr. Sanval Nasim, Assistant Professor of Economics at Lahore University of Management Sciences, was of the view that air pollution is often conflated with climate change. He said that although these issues overlap to some extent, they differ enough to warrant separate policies. Dr. Nasim added that in cities such as Lahore, vehicles emit PM2.5 — an egregious pollutant — in comparison to industries and power plants, however, power sector holds the largest share of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — the source of climate change. “As climate change action takes a foothold, policymakers can consider incentive-based approaches such as emission charges and carbon emission trading as viable alternatives to mitigate GHGs”, Dr. Nasim said.

            • ACJCE
            • Carbon emissions
            • Cement industry
            • CO2
            • Coal
            • Coal Pakistan

            Speakers at seminar discuss `social & environmental impacts of Thar coal power project`

            • Calendar Dec 13, 2018

            Speakers at a seminar organised by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) at a local hotel on Thursday demanded a ban on all coal-powered electricity generation plants in the country, especially those being installed in Tharparkar.

            They also vowed to launch a movement against use of coal for power generation.

            PFF chairman Mohammed Ali Shah told the seminar titled ‘Social and environmental impacts of Thar coal power project’ that a forum was being established to resist the use of coal in power generation at Thar in the larger interest of the desert region’s population.

            Their lives, livestock, fertile land and environment all are at stake, according to him.

            Sindh Agriculture University (SAU) Prof Dr Mohammad Ismail Kumbhar called for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to address the issues highlighted by the PFF chief and the media regarding the hazards involved.

            Mr Shah said that coal-powered plants must be banned across the country. Instead, he stressed, government should focus on renewable sources of energy.

            “There are four prominent types of coal used around the world [for the purpose] — lignite, bituminous, sub-bituminous and anthracite — and lignite discovered in Thar and known as brown coal contains less amount of carbon and a greater amount of water. It’s the dirtiest and worst kind of coal,” he said.

            He claimed that emission from this category of coal was considered to be responsible for premature death.

            He pointed out that the Thar coalfield was divided into 12 blocks. Initially, block I and II were leased out to a private corporate firm for mining. It was in block II where practical work for surface mining and installation of 660MW power plants was started in 2015.

            “The lignite coal of Thar will produce dirtiest energy in Pakistan,” he claimed.

            The other issues that needed to be looked into were land disputes, dewatering of the Gorano reservoir, cost of land estimated at a lower side, absence of a resettlement policy for the affected Thari villagers etc.

            Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) deputy director (technical) Muneer Abbasi said that ecological conditions should be restored without any compromises on sustainable development. He said that major environmental issues which were arising out of the proposed activity related to solid waste, air emission and occupational health safety. He stated that the issues pertained to emission of gases, smoke and ambient air quality.

            “We are addressing the issues in the light of possible effects after the project is put into operation,” he said.

            A resident of Gorano village, Mr Bheemraj, said that Tharis fretted about the saline water reservoir as it was taking its toll on the entire environment and ecology of the region. He said the court of law had also been moved over it.

            Asim Nawaz Khan, Suleman G. Abro, Pushpa Kumari, Dastagir Bhatti, Bukshal Talho, Nazeer Qureshi, Ishaq Mangrio and others also spoke. (Courtesy: DAWN).

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              Study launched on ‘Thar Coalfield Water Impacts: Financial and Social Risks’

              • Calendar Aug 7, 2020

              KARACHI, LAHORE, ISLAMABAD, 7th August 2020 (Friday): Coal power projects in Thar present “substantial risks of significant water conflict” in Sindh, warns a study launched on Friday.

              The study titled as ‘Thar Coalfield Water Impacts: Financial and Social Risks’ is conducted by Paul Winn, an international energy campaigner working with Hydrocology Consulting, a global strategic engineering and environmental consultancy. It says that intensive extraction of groundwater for open pit mining of lignite coal for power production will deprive many Thari people of their local groundwater reserves for generations.

              Mine dewatering is likely to affect the water supplies of 1.65 million Thari, removing the sole permanent water supply for many, leaving them reliant on treated water supplied by mining and power companies,

              said Mr Winn while sharing the findings of his study at an online launching ceremony organized by the Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy (ACJCE).

              He also pointed out that the diversion of canal water for running cooling systems in coal-fired power plants would not only deprive farmers of the irrigation water they now have but it would create a drought-like situation in Sindh province’s already dry eastern regions. Large surface water diversion from the Indus Basin Irrigation Systems would be necessary to supply huge volumes of water needed to keep the power stations cool, he said and added that no assessment of the environmental, social and economic impacts of this water diversions had been ever undertaken.

              According to Mr Winn, water extraction and water diversion schemes required for mining and power generation might cause severe water shortages, livestock losses and crop failures which could lead to increase in malnutrition in an area which already suffers from high levels of poverty. Water scarcity, he said, could ultimately lead to a closure of the power plants since running them without cooling them regularly is technologically impossible. If and when such closure takes place, he argued, the government would still have to pay capacity charges to power producers which, in turn, could push Pakistan further into the trap of its already massive circular debt.

              Commenting on the study, Dr. Mark Chernaik, Staff Scientist for Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), said: “The [study] will make an important contribution to [the ongoing] debate on building coal-fired power plants in the middle of a scorching desert”. He argued that a dry air cooling system was impractical for coal-fired plants located in a hot desert like Thar. So, he said, the only option available for these plants was to have a water-based cooling system.

              Citing figures from the study, he said the government’s proposed water diversion scheme would create an evaporation pond because of the high levels of water evaporation in the desert. According to him, starting with 0.1% salinity of the source of water, salinity of the reservoir would soon exceed levels that farm lands could safely use without damaging crops.

              Advocate Naveed Mari, an associate of the Alternative Law Collective, criticized the faulty process adopted during a public hearing over the water diversion scheme. The hearing, he said, was held during the height of corona virus pandemic when people wishing to participate in it faced many restrictions in their mobility due to government-imposed lockdown. As a result, he said, public participation in the hearing was far from satisfactory which meant that the hearing process was neither participatory nor transparent.

              He also highlighted the errors of omission and commission in the facts and figures given in the government’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the water diversion scheme.

              Muhammad Ali Shah, Chairman of the Pakistan Fisher-folk Forum (PFF), said it was quite ironical that we were building coalfired power plants at a time when the world was abandoning them due to their high economic and environmental costs. He said the local people of Thar were already experiencing displacement, livelihood losses, water shortages, water contamination and other environmental problems due to the government’s inappropriate energy choices and priorities in their regions.

                Air pollution from Thar’s coal mines, power plants to cause serious toxic deposition, health risks: Study

                • Calendar May 29, 2020

                KARACHI, LAHORE, ISLAMABAD, 29th May 2020 (Friday): Emissions from a massive cluster of coal mines and power plants in Thar would expose local population to serious health risks besides causing serious damage to the desert’s physical and natural environment, reveals a study launched on Friday.

                These emissions could cause 40,000 asthma emergency room visits, 19,906 new cases of asthma in children, 32,000 preterm births, 20 million days of work absence (sick leave), 57,000 years lived with disability related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and stroke and 29,000 air pollution-related deaths over the 30 year operating period of power projects, the study states.

                The study titled as ‘Air quality, health and toxics impacts of the proposed coal mining and power cluster in Thar, Pakistan’ has been conducted by Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).

                Since Pakistan is already suffering from air pollution levels that are among the highest in the world, the emissions induced by coal mines and power plants of Thar will further reduce life expectancy in the country and increase the vulnerability of its citizens to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Lauri Myllyvirta,

                Lead Analyst of CREA, while speaking at an online launching ceremony of the study organized by Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy (ACJCE).

                The Thar emissions would constitute one of the largest hotspots of mercury and carbon dioxide in South Asia, he said. The coal power plants would emit an estimated 1,400 kg of mercury per year, of which one fifth would be deposited into land ecosystems in the region.

                Most of the deposition would take place onto cropland and increase the mercury concentrations in crops, said the lead analyst while terming the levels of mercury deposition as potentially dangerous in an area with 100,000 inhabitants.

                The study also points out errors and omissions in the data used in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA ) reports of two coal power projects in Block-II and one in Block-VI as well as violations of Sindh Ambient Air Quality Standards and guidelines of World Health Organization (WHO) and IFC.

                Given the actual incidences of legal non-compliance and misreporting involved in social and environmental impact assessments, land surveys, land acquisition and compensation and the monitoring processes adopted for development of Thar coal mines and power plants, what the study reveals is just a proverbial iceberg of misleading public through data maneuvering,

                said Advocate Zubair Ahmad Abro of Alternative Law Collective, who has been fighting a legal battle for the communities adversely impacted by coal power projects in Thar. He resolved to continue legal battle for the rights of people suffering from the development of coal mines and power plants in Thar.

                Muhammad Ali Shah, Chairman, Pakistan Fisher-folk Form (PFF) said the local communities of Thar were already suffering from forced displacement, encroachment on common grazing land, livelihood losses, water stress and air pollution induced by coal power project in Thar. To end the sufferings of Thari people, he demanded the government to adopt renewable energy projects and stop mining and import of coal for power generation.

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