KARACHI: All is set for the inauguration of the country’s first major coal-based power project by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari today (Wednesday).
The power plant has a capacity to generate 660 Megawatts (MW) and consists of two power generation units of 330MWs each. It is part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project and China has actively extended financial, technical and manpower support for its completion.
While speaking to the media, the plant’s Project Manager Faisal Shafiq said that one of the power generation units had already been synchronised with the national grid and the synchronisation of the second unit would commence today. Tests and trials to check evacuation of electricity had been done, he added.
The project manager said that the formal commercial operations of the power plant would commence by June this year.
The project took around 10 years to complete, said Shafiq, from the time the project was conceived and when Sindh government finally entered into a partnership with Engro under the Public Private Partnership regime.
He said that it was an arduous and nerve-testing work for all the stakeholders involved, who put their best efforts forward duringthe last decade so that the first ever major power project of the country, which would consume indigenously available coal reserves, could be realised.
He said that all the environmental concerns regarding the coal-based power project had been allayed and the project had been built in accordance with the standards set by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation.
The project director said that once the project would achieve its full capacity, it would consume 12,000 tonnes per day of coal extracted from the coal mine of Thar block-II. Around 4,000-strong labour force had been used for the construction of the power plant of whom, around 2,500 belonged to Thar area, he added. He further said that up to 70 engineers working for the project were Tharis.
He said that the Sindh government, Engro, and other partners of the Thar coal power project had been working on an extensive plan to properly train the local youth so that they could work for the project.
The construction of the power plant had been completed in almost 36 months’ time, said Shafiq adding that no major untoward incident occurred during its construction.
Earlier, the Project Manager of Thar Block-II coal mine, Naeem Pasha, had informed that the mining operation had formally commenced in 2016 and the open-pit mining operation had now reached a depth of 160 metres. He added that the current coal extraction levels could sustain the daily fuel needs of the 660 MW power plant.
Pasha said that coal mine of Thar block-II tapped into just 1% of the massive Thar coal reserves of 175 billion tonnes, which was enough to generate electricity for the next 50 years.
Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company Corporate Social Responsibility General Manager Naseer Memon said that Thar coal power project had given direct and indirect employment to up to 6,000 Tharis.
Change Pakistan’s destiny
Commenting on the upcoming inauguration, Adviser to Sindh CM on Information, Law and Anti-corruption Barrister Murtaza Wahab said that Thar Coal Power Project will transform Pakistan and change its destiny.
While talking to journalists at his office on Tuesday, he said that Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had dreamt that Thar would transform Pakistan and he felt that her dream was being fulfilled. “Smoke emitting from the chimney of Thar Coal Power Project is an indication of progress and prosperity of Thar including whole Pakistan,” he added.
Wahab said that Benazir had conceptualised the Thar Project back in 1996 and it has been made a reality by the visionary leadership of PPP today.
He said that this project will boost the industrial revolution in the country.
The PPP chairperson will be accompanied by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, his cabinet colleagues, senior government officials and diplomats of various countries including China at the inauguration. The inauguration ceremony will be performed in Islamkot where both the coal mine of Thar block-II and the power plant are situated. The federal government is likely to be represented by Federal Power Minister Omar Ayub Khan.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2019.