THAR - WAQT NEWS REPORT/Agencies - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari Friday jointly performed ground-breaking of the $1.6 billion Thar Coal power project to help the country meet its energy needs. The project will initially provide 660MW of power for energy-starved industrial units. It will complete in 2017 and help spur economic development and bring energy security to the country.The two leaders of PML-N and PPP performed the ground-breaking of the project that will be carried out by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) - a joint venture between Engro Powergen and Government of Sindh.While travelling together from Sindhri to Thar in helicopter, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif discussed with Asif Zardari important political matters, including the four-member committee formed by him to negotiate with TTP.The prime minister also sought Asif Ali Zardari’s help to stop issuance of statements concerning the proposed peace talks. Zardari assured the PM that no PPP leader, including Bilawal Bhutto, would issue any such statement. It was also agreed that the four-member committee would hold talks with the PPP leadership and Opposition leader in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah. During the travel, terrorism, law and order situation, Karachi operation, non-release of funds to the Sindh government by the Centre and political harmony between PPP and PML-N in Sindh also came under discussion. Nawaz Sharif, in his address at the Thar Coalfield, said the launch of the project along with Asif Ali Zardari, had sent a message across that the political leadership should be united when it comes to the development of the country.The premier said days of stale politics were over and now politicians believing in the national development were on the top.He said this political trend must be set in Pakistan now and the leaders need to think about the country first regardless of their differences.He thanked Asif Zardari for inviting him to the ground-breaking of the Thar Coal Project and said it was a matter of satisfaction that “we all are together and have the same priorities.” “Anyone who believes in the development of Pakistan would be pleased that the country’s political leadership is together on this national event.” He said all political parties need to accept the mandate of the people. He appreciated Asif Zardari for open-heartedly accepting the success of the PML-N government in the 2013 elections, as his party did in 2008 elections for Pakistan Peoples Party. Nawaz termed the project a big national development project and suggested that the coal for all projects in Gaddani should be supplied from Thar.He said the government was working on several power generation projects including hydel and nuclear generation. He said the recently launched nuclear power project in Karachi would generate 2200MW, while the Dasu, Diamir and Bunji dams on Indus River would generate 15000MW electricity. He said the Thar project would eventually produce 6600 MW of power. He said three power projects would complete in 2017 including Jhimpir Wind Power project in Thatta, CASA 1000 and Tarbela Dam upgradation. He said efforts were afoot to import Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) and pledged that in one and a half year, the problem of gas shortage would be addressed.He said the project will usher in an era of prosperity and development for the people of Tharparkar. He also seconded the suggestion of former President Asif Ali Zardari for setting up an industrial park in Thar that would generate employment for the people. He said the Federal Government will contribute in its development.“The progress of any province is the prosperity of entire Pakistan,” he added.Referring to Youth Business Loan Scheme, the Prime Minister said quota on the basis of population of the province would be ensured and there would be no discrimination with any province.Asif Zardari said the day’s event would convey a message to the next generations of the country that the politicians need to sit together to work for the development of the country.He said the project, initiated by Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed and later during his government, has finally seen the light of the day. He was also appreciative of the people of Thar who supported his party.Sindh CM Qaim Ali Shah said the project would bring about a big change in the lives of the people of Tharparkar, Sindh and the entire country. He termed the coal gold for Pakistan and said the electricity generated would be used to help run the industrial units of the country and generate employment.Earlier, Chief Executive Officer Engro Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh while briefing the Prime Minister said that Engro had started a joint venture in power sector with Sindh Government by acquiring Block-II of Thar Coal area, comprising 100 square kilometer. In Block-II, he said the availability of two billion tonnes coal has been estimated and in the first phase, the process of coal mining and establishment of power project, will be completed with 1.6 billion dollars in three and half years. Initially, the project will generate 660 Megawatts electricity, however, the completion of other phases will help in generating 5,000 megawatts electricity, he said. He said that Block-II possessed 2 billion tonnes coal however, 1.5 billion coal can be extracted economically.Responding to a question, he informed that neighbouring country had utilized its all coal reserves, however, the utilization of Thar Coal reserve for power generation was still awaited.The Prime Minister was also briefed about various development projects which were launched by Sindh Government in Thar desert.Secretary Thar Coal Energy Board Agha Wasif briefed the Prime Minister about the under-construction Thar Airport.He informed that 80 percent work of the airport had been completed and by June 2014, the project will be completed at a cost of Rs. 972 million.He said the Sindh Government had also launched a project of Environmental and Social Studies including Re-settlement Framework and land use plan for Thar coalfield with approved cost of Rs. 230 million. The objectives of launching the project was to carry out social and environmental studies, air quality assessment, designing of er-settlement with policy framework and land use plan, he added.Agha Wasif also briefed the Prime Minister about preparation of water master plan of Thar Coalfield including hydrogeological water supply and waste water management studies. He said that the project, which at present was in tendering process, had been launched by Sindh Government with approved cost of Rs. 400 million.The Prime Minister was also briefed about the improvement of road network project launched in two phases by the provincial government. He was also briefed about the construction of 50 cusecs drainage, waste water and effluent channel from mining of Thar Coalfield Unit-2, launched by the provincial government with approved cost of Rs. 3672 million. Agha Wasif also informed the Prime Minister about installation of Reverse Osmosis (Water Desalination) plants in Tharparkar and Umerkot districts, adding that 54 such plants had so far been completed and remaining 39 were in progress.He also informed the Prime Minister about Water Carrier from Nabisar to Islamkot Thar Coalfield Project, adding that Rs. 262.890 million have so far been spent on the project which will be completed by June 2015.Chief Minister Balochistan Abdul Malik Baloch, Acting Governor Sindh Agha Siraj Durrani, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed, Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, State Minister for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali, Senior Sindh Education Minister Nisar Khohro, Sindh Information Minister Sharjil Inam Memon, Sindh Minister for Zakat and Ushr Doust Ali Rahimo and Chairman Engro Pakistan Hussain Daud were present.The project in Block-II of Tharparkar District is spread over an area of 79.6 square kilometres. According to a feasibility study, the project is commercially viable and has no significant environmental threats and social implications.In the Phase I, the project will develop coal mining and power project with a capacity of 3.8 million tonnes per annum and 660 MW. Subsequently, the mine will be expanded to a coal capacity of 6.5 million tonnes per annum to support a 1300 MW power plant.In Phase II, it is planned to expand mining project to 13.5 million tonnes and 19.5 million tonnes, with a power generation capacity of 2400 MW and 3600 MW.The Thar coalfield has an estimated lignite reserves of 175 billion tonnes, equivalent to total oil reserves of Saudi Arabia and Iran combined and can be used to produce 100,000 MW for 200 years, according to the data available by SECMC.This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 01-Feb-2014 here.