HYDERABAD: The Sindh Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) conducted on Thursday an environmental hearing for the construction of a 330 megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant, a project by Siddiqsons Energy Limited (SEL), in Tharparkar. At the hearing, locals demanded a due share of the opportunities and expressed concerns about the effects on their livelihoods and environment.
Bheem Raj, a resident of Thariyo Halepoto village in Islamkot taluka, said that the local people do not oppose development. “We just want our due share in the development. New projects should not adversely affect our livelihoods, which are based on livestock and agriculture,” he explained.
Other village residents complained about the vague resettlement policy of the provincial government for the affected people. They asked SEL, a subsidiary of Siddiqsons group of companies, to come clean with its resettlement plan. “The people of Thar are heirs to the coal wealth. Whatever they are given in terms of employment or other opportunities should not be given as charity or alms, rather as a legal right of the locals,” said a village resident, Meghwadh.
The plant would be built in Thar Coal Block II, increasing the total generation capacity of Block II to 1,650MW. The Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) is already constructing a 660MW coal-fired power generation project in the same block.
SEL’s Iftikhar Aziz, while briefing the hearing, said SEL would procure 1.9 million tons of coal, which would be mined in Thar, annually from SECMC for its power project. The plant would use circulating fluidised bed boiler technology for power generation.
SECMC spokesperson Mohsin Babur told The Express Tribune that the tentative supply of coal for SEL’s project will start from February, 2020.
Hidayat Hasan of Hagler Baily Pakistan, a consulting company for the project’s environmental impact assessment, identified air quality, ash and waste water disposal, ecology and socioeconomic aspects as the main environmental and social concerns.
According to him, two coal mines and three power plants of the other companies in Block II would become operational prior to the SEL’s power plant. He said 125,000 tons of ash would be produced from the power plant and would be stored in an ash yard for two years.
The plant will be supplied water from the Left Bank Outfall Drain. However, SEL claimed that it would minimise disposal of waste water by recycling the used water. The residual waste water would be disposed in an evaporation pond.
The disposal of waste water for Thar coal projects created a big controversy when the local people filed a petition in the Sindh High Court and continued protests for months against the construction of a reservoir in Ghorano by SECMC.
Sepa Additional Director-General SM Yahya presided over the hearing and said that a committee comprising of district administration, local residents and representatives of the company and non-governmental organisations would address the concerns of local people. He said that the concerns and complaints raised during the hearing would be mentioned in Sepa’s report about the hearing.