Fears about environmental impact allayed
LAHORE: As the coal-powered plants in Rajasthan, India, have been ascribed as main source behind the recent deadly Karachi heat wave, the fears have risen for the impact of Thar coal projects on environment.
According to Greenpeace International, a global enjoinment watchdog, coal-fired power plants are the biggest source of man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which makes coal energy the single greatest threat facing our climate.
However, the in-charge of a coal mining company in Thar doesn’t see the possibility of a similar situation emerging when the proposed coal power plants in Sindh and other parts of the country become operational in future. Project Manager Mining, Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), Ahmad Naeem Aftab Pasha also doubts the authenticity of the reports which claimed the coal plants in India were behind the rising temperatures in the port city causing deaths of more than 1,500 people.
Talking to The Nation, Pasha said the water-cooled system would be adopted in the coal power plants to keep the temperature down at minimum possible level.
Being the 7th largest coal reserves in the world, Thar coal’s power-generation capacity is even more than the combined oil potential of Saudi Arabia and Iran. It can cater the country’s energy needs for next 4,375 years.
Pasha said the first coal power plant would start generating 660 MW of electricity by the first quarter of 2018.
“The coal reserves have been divided in 12 blocks and Block-2 with 2 billion tons of coal has been allocated to SECMC for mining. It has the potential to generate 4,000 MW of electricity for next 50 years.”
Pasha said the company tried its best to make whole process of power generation as ‘not environment risky’.
“Fearing the coal burning would destroy environment is not realistic at a stage when the country is facing acute shortage of electricity. China, India and other countries are meeting more than 50% of their electricity needs with coal then why not we?”
Citing example of his recent visit of coal power plants in China, Pasha said he saw greenery everywhere. “We should not avoid the electricity generation from coal but avoid deforestation,” he said. He said the Thar coal had only one per cent of sulphur content compared to seven per cent found in coal reserves of Indian Gujrat, and was less harmful to environment as compared to India’s.
A Karachi-based environmental economist Saima Baig also backed Pasha’s point of view somehow.
“India did not cause the heat wave in Karachi but the lack of preparedness and response of the powers that be, surely contributed to its people dying.”
She said: “Yes…heat waves (and other disasters) should be expected but if the so called experts do not have the knowledge to understand the issues and to deal with them through a governance system, we can continue to expect the deaths of our citizens.”
Baig said developing countries like Pakistan should contribute to global mitigation efforts, but more importantly, Pakistan needed a solid adaptation plan that will ensure that human and natural systems were made resilient to the impacts of a warming world.