TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com)
May 12 - 18, 2008

While so far numbers of memoranda of understanding have been signed between Sindh government and intentional investors to embark on exploiting coal reserves of Thar for generating power, for reason unknown these MOUs keep catching dusts for at least last two years as no serious efforts are visible to lay the groundwork in the vicinity of Thar. It is incomprehensive that in spite of regular planning carried forward in line of harnessing coalfields, why has execution not yet taken place?

From house planning to relocation and replacement of affected habitats to irrigation study, government has apparently prepared complete working paper. Even though international investors too expressed their willingness to cooperate, not a sizeable unit of electricity has yet been extracted out of coal. While budget 2007-08 prioritized the development of water projects, which are prerequisites for coal utilization alongside to directly produce hydro electricity, one would expect high importance be given to infrastructure development of the largest coal field of Pakistan and irrigation system improvement in the upcoming annual budget. Since national energy demand is increasing day by day, the need to develop sources of inexpensive and sustainable power has acquired massive proportion of energy policy framework.

New and workable short and long-term strategies are greatly required to meet power deficit in the years to come. Thar district is still fraught with poor means of communications. The systems of railways and air services are not up to the mark. The condition of transportation and communication is closely reminiscent of history. Before 1950's district transportation was entirely undertaken by animals or private jeeps. Normally plying on the non-metalled roads of the desert, trucks are used to transport passengers and their belongings in and out. The increase in vehicular traffic has taken place not only because of an increase in passenger traffic but more so of the need to transport grain and daily necessities of life from and to Thar. Total metalled roads within the district are of about 195 kilometres cobwebbed in Naukot, Mithi, Diplo, Islamkot, Chelhar, Umerkot, Ali Bander, and Kaloi. Despite postal and telecommunication facilities linked the district with the country, till 1998 there were only 11 telephone exchanges and 3 post offices in operation.

Water supply line from Mithi to Islamkot and up to coal mines has been completed thereby 0.6 million gallons water reservoir is available at coal mine site. In addition to this, it is said Pakistan Railways once conducted feasibility study of railway line at Thar coalfield to facilitate transportation of coal equipment. It is also said that construction work of accommodation for local and international investors at Islamkot is in progress.

Tharparkar district is spread over an area of around 20,000 square kilometres. Of that, over 9,000 square kilometres is identified as coal-field having estimated recoverable reserves of 200 billion tones of good quality coal, which is suitable for power generation. It has been estimated that there are over 909 billion tonnes of proven coal reserves worldwide. China and USA are recognized largest consumers of coal for electricity generation. 83.2% of China's electricity is produced from coal while 90% of coal consumption of about 1 billion tonne in USA is for generating electricity.

Thar coalfield is located at a distance of around 400 kilometres in north east of Karachi. Thar coal deposits are known enough for meeting the energy requirements of the country for decades and would unroll sustainable and reliable power generation projects. So far, coal deposits have been recovered at Warwai, a small village near lslamkot. This is one of the 13 places in the district where coal deposits have been found. At Nagarparkar on Pak-India border, Thar district occupies relatively a productive quality of granite deposits. There also exists a lot of potential for investment in granite mining and processing.

The development programmes related to dam construction and energy sources' creation of last government if continued and implemented analytically nationwide power deficit can be cut short. The electricity generated from Neelam-Jhelum Project, which has a calculated cost of Rs. 84.5 billion would contribute to the development of the economy. As a result of functional Bhasha Diamir dam, Gomal-Zam dam, Kurram Tangi dam, Subak Zai dam, 2 million acre feet additional water can be available for storage and 644 MW electricity be generated. By construction of these dams, 2.6 million acres land can be irrigated.

Also, last government did commendable job by initiating Khushal Pakistan Programme under which 49,000 villages were provided electricity, at a cost of 21.6 billion rupees; 1207 cities and villages were provided sui gas at a cost of 71 billion rupees; roads were constructed and water supply schemes launched.

Coal means of generating electricity is often under vehement backlash of ecologists whose contention appears because of the combustion process affecting ozonosphere. By igniting granite and coal, carbon dioxide emissions increase in quantity as much to beget greenhouse gas and result in ultimately climate change. Signatories of various climate protocols have consented to reduce the lead level from atmosphere by minimizing use of fossil and bio fuels. In practical term, pressure of harnessing environment friendly fuels on developing countries is rather excruciating nonetheless their small greenhouse gas contribution in to atmosphere. Pakistan, being one of the followers of Euro II standard, has to lower down consumption of fossil fuel by discouraging power generation-whether for electricity or for propelling vehicle engine. It is sarcasm, however, that top destroyers of ozonosphere keep on fuelling electricity power plants by coal. Given the prospective possible strict criteria, it would be better for government of Pakistan to exploit national coal reserves as early as possible.