Reports of huge reserves of coal buried under the sands of the Thar desert in Sindh have surfaced from time to time. Now something is finally being done to draw benefit from this resource, taking a big step towards meeting an energy shortfall that threatens to cripple us.
The Thar Coal Energy Board Act may be presented very soon to the Sindh Assembly, to set up a body that can use this coal to the best advantage of the country. A meeting of the board at the chief minister’s house was told that the two billion tons of coal reserves could generate 5,000 megawatts of power for the next 50 years. The findings leave one wondering why we have had so much fuss over energy generation given that a resource of this scale exists. The water and power minister has said that people will be able to benefit from power generated from coal ‘very soon’. International investment to mine and utilise the coal is to be called in.
The Sindh and central governments both need to be commended for moving ahead with a plan to use the coal reserve. We should ask why this was not done sooner, by other governments, Had this happened, perhaps the prolonged loadshedding that has crippled production and added to unemployment across the country could have been avoided. It is unclear if deliberate intent or mere neglect was involved in this. The official confirmation of the presence of huge amounts of coal also inevitably raises questions about whether we need more controversial projects such as the Rental Power Projects.
What is now most important is that the plan to utilise the coal be conducted in an open and transparent manner. The award of contracts to international firms must take place through a clear process. It must also take place quickly, so we can meet the growing energy crisis before it worsens and adds to our many woes.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 15th, 2010.