ISLAMABAD: The recently released Economic Survey 2019-20 has noted that the use of coal in Pakistan’s energy mix is currently negligible and the government is focused on increasing its contribution to 30% by the year 2030.
According to the report, Sindh has an estimated 185 billion tons of coal reserves in Lakhra, east of Indus, and Thar. Based on official figures, Pakistan has the potential to generate 100,000 megawatts of electricity for the next several decades from Thar coal alone, which can result in annual savings of up to $1 billion for the country.
While Pakistan has successfully managed to overcome its energy crisis, the sector is still confronted with a demand-supply gap that needs to be narrowed, along with utilising low-cost energy sources such as local coal in its energy mix.
The survey stated that many coal-mining and power generation projects are in the process of development in Thar coal field. Imported coal power plants may also be required to consider mixing with Thar coal.
The volume of import cargo for July-December 2019 stood at 21.878 million tonnes as against the 20.125 million tonnes handled during the corresponding period of last year, showing an increase of 8.7%. Coal imports were the largest imported cargo, which represented over 34% of total import cargo.
Despite the enormous potential offered by the world’s seventh largest coal reserves in Thar, the power projects based in the area unfortunately often come under sharp criticism from environmentalists and vested interest groups.
These groups claim that Thar power projects will be responsible for large-scale emission of air pollutants and environmental damage. One such recent report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air draws conclusions about a power plant commissioned just 10 months ago without a proper health impact assessment.
It is important to highlight that the mine and coal-fired power projects have been designed, developed and are being executed and operated under all applicable regulatory environmental guidelines.
Based on studies, these projects are designed to comply not only with the Sindh Environmental Quality Standards (SEQS) as a mandatory requirement but also voluntarily comply with the International Finance Corporation (IFC).
Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2020.
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