No problems: SEPA gave go-ahead to Thar coal mining project, court told

Ghorano reservoir project received due approval before work was begun

Our Correspondent October 13, 2016
Ghorano reservoir project received due approval before work was begun. PHOTO: FILE

HYDRABAD: The Sindh Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) clarified on Thursday in the Sindh High Court (SHC) that Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company’s (SECMC) reservoir project in Tharparkar has obtained the due approval. In his statement, SEPA director-general Naeem Ahmed Mughal rebutted the petitioner’s allegations that work on the Ghorano reservoir project was progressing without SEPA’s approval.

“The environmental impact assessment for the reservoir ... was approved on February 10, 2016, after completing all the legal formalities as prescribed under the law,” reads the statement. The reply was submitted in the Hyderabad circuit bench in a case filed by residents of Islamkot taluka of Tharparkar, including Lakho Bheel and Dost Ali.

The petitioners claim the project will adversely affect thousands of people, livestock, ecology and wildlife and will turn the subsoil water of Ghorano and other villages in the vicinity brackish.

According to the SECMC, the 1,400-acre reservoir in Ghorano is an essential component of its $2-billion coal mining and 660 megawatt power generation project in Thar Coal Block II. The water pumped out from the coalfields will be carried to the reservoir through a 37.5-kilometre-long pipeline of 50 cusecs capacity.

“The petitioners filed this petition after an unexplained delay of over three months after the issuance of the no objection certificate [by SEPA],” stated Mughal, who also apprised the court that the public hearing for the project was conducted on April 17, 2015. “The reservoir will not cause any destruction of the area.”

In another reply, the mukhtiarkar of Islamkot submitted that the land for the project is far away from the village of the petitioners. Furthermore, none of the petitioners own a piece of land that comprises the 1,400 acres on which the reservoir will be built.

The SECMC was confronted with a hiccup in the SHC when the Sindh Coal Authority, a partner in the project, submitted in the court that it had only approved the Dukkur Cho site for the reservoir, not Ghorano. However, on September 22, the authority replaced advocate Sher Ali Rizvi with advocate Saman Riffat and withdrew the statement that Rizvi had submitted on their behalf.

The SECMC planned to begin the coal mining by the end of 2016 or beginning of 2017. The company’s power generation is scheduled to begin from June, 2019. The SHC will resume the hearing of the case on November 10.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2016.



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