Sepa takes up another power project amid serious environmental concerns
KARACHI: Stakeholders at a public hearing conducted by the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) on Tuesday questioned the need for a proposed power project in environmental conditions already compromised due to lack of regulatory control on industrial emissions and discharge of untreated effluent in the Port Qasim area.
The project’s criticism forced Sepa to announce another meeting of selective audience, whose concerns remained unanswered at the hearing, on the project.
There was also a demand that Sepa share and hold a public hearing on the recent International Finance Corporation (IFC) study that examines the cumulative impact of the many development projects, which have either been built or coming up in the Port Qasim area.
The study document, according to Sepa, is currently with the Port Qasim Authority (PQA), which had no representation at the public hearing on Tuesday. It was dedicated to a 450-megawatt re-gasified liquefied natural gas (RLNG) combined-cycle power plant by the Engro Powergen Limited (EPL).
The programme took off with an introduction of the project according to which imported fuel would be transported from an LNG terminal to the project site via an underground pipeline, which would either traverse along the southern boundary wall of the existing Engro Polymer and Chemicals Limited and Engro Zarkhez complex or outside the western and northern boundary wall of the same complex.
The $405m power plant would include gas turbines based on a combined cycle configuration with heat recovery steam generator and steam turbine. Seawater to be supplied through an intake channel between the plant and Gharo Creek would be treated using a reverse osmosis filter plant.
“There is no freshwater consumption and the total seawater requirements for the project will be 1,201m³ per hour whereas the daily gas requirement is estimated to be 70m standard cubic feet per day,” said Farhan Ahmed Khan Lodhi representing the EPL.
The power plant to be built on the latest technology would be the most economical and efficient in the country, he contended.
The Engro group, he said, had done extensive CSR (corporate social responsibility) work across the country especially in the areas of education and skill development and the same would be replicated in the project area.
“It will also generate employment opportunities as the company plans to hire over 800 people during its peak construction period,” he said.
Giving a presentation on the EIA report, Hussain Ali representing the Hagler Bailly Pakistan, which conducted project’s environmental impact assessment, said that it’s a clean venture.
“[Due to massive industrial activities] ecological disturbance in the project area is already high. There is no fishing activity in the area, therefore, there will be no adverse impact on livelihood of fishing communities. No threatened species was found during the survey,” he remarked.
Though he did point out that the EIA team held consultative meetings with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan, he didn’t share with the audience the suggestions, if any, given by experts of these organisations to the EIA team.
Also, there was no representation of fishing community at the public hearing. Members of the fishing communities were apparently contacted during the consultative process and their photos were shown in the presentation.
According to Ali, brine water (a highly concentrated solution of the salts and contaminants to be generated by the RO plant in this case) would be treated before discharge into a storm-water drain called Badal Nullah.
Air emissions would remain well within national and international standard limits, he said.
No consultation with govt depts
During the question-hour session, officials representing Sepa criticised that no consultation had been done with it and the fisheries and wildlife departments before or during the EIA process. These departments, too, had no representation at the hearing.
On hazardous emissions, Saquib Ejaz Hussain, an environmentalist, said the air-shed of Port Qasim area had already saturated owing to massive industrial activity and more development projects like these would worsen environmental conditions.
He also questioned the specific brine limit selected by the consultant for the EIA (there is no brine water limit in the Sepa rules).
“The Badal Nullah is a storm water drain and shouldn’t be used for waste disposal. The drain has been illegally redirected,” he said, asking the project proponent for alternatives if Sepa refused to allow waste disposal into the drain.
Concerns over safe gas transfer from the jetty to the project site were also raised and it was explained that the Pakistan Liquefied Natural Gas Limited would be the custodian of all gas import while physical infrastructure and safety measures were already in place at the Engro terminal.
In his remarks, Sepa director general Naeem Mughal said the PQA was the custodian of all projects operating or being developed on its land and the authority needed to share the recent study that had evaluated the cumulative impact of upcoming ventures.
“The PQA needs to take solid measures to ensure and prevent disaster,” he said, agreeing with the idea that the cumulative impact study should be publicly discussed first before the agency took up more development projects in the Port Qasim area.