Black gold

Published: November 15, 2010
Thar project requires proper infrastructure and investment incentives, Sindh government.

Thar project requires proper infrastructure and investment incentives, Sindh government.

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.

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Reader Comments (3)

  • Nov 15, 2010 - 1:06AM

    China is a recent example of a country that used coal to drive its economy’s energy needs. However, coal being the dirtiest of natural resources led to unforeseen damage to the local environment, especially around massive urban sprawls such as Beijing. The environmental and health costs associated with coal powered stations are far more than were initially estimated. As Pakistan moves to take advantage of its coal reserves, we must push the government to accept projects which are built on newly development clean coal power stations, and not one of the decommissioned European power stations that no longer conform to EU law. We dont want to solve one problem and replace it with another more costly one. Recommend

  • Nov 15, 2010 - 5:11AM

    Black gold means petroleum, not coal. No country has gotten rich by selling or burning coal. Pakistan has a role in protecting the black gold of the Gulf region. If Pakistan instead chooses to become a useful stooge for China, the behemoth will devour everything until the the last drop of oil is sucked out via a pipeline. We should protect our long-term interests instead of trying to “help out” whoever is the superpower of the day.Recommend

  • A Suhail
    Nov 15, 2010 - 4:42PM

    Just to add to the comments, the coal reserve of Sindh are not of very good quality. The coal reserves are of low rank and it is high in sulfur content. Thus it will emit sulfur dioxide when burnt and cause environmental damage at a large scale. Also, the coal reserves are sandwiched between two water tables that pose a mining challenge.

    There is enough material and pictorial evidence online to show the disaster extensive coal use has done to some of the areas in China. I believe people of sindh will pay a heavy price if the coal is extracted from their land. World Bank has decided not to fund the project in pakistan for environmental reasons. We should seriously look into wind and solar energy for domestic consumpstion.Recommend

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