On the energy front, the government is falling back on coal, while water, electricity and gas falter in the head winds of failing resources and circular debt. The government has decided to begin processing proposals by private companies to set up 10 coal-based power projects having a total capacity of 4,250 MW in different provinces. The coal gasification option appears to be robust and definitely has a future in Pakistan’s energy scene. Coal gasification is an established technology and even in Pakistan, a number of small coal gasifiers imported from China have been installed. In China, more than 75% of urea and other fertilisers are made out of coal gasification. In South Africa, similar technology is used to produce petroleum products.

Sadly in Pakistan, Coal Gasification has been marred under the Samar Mubarakmand controversy. Mubarakmand tried to undertake underground coal gasification (UCG) on his own. UCG has not yet been accepted as a firm and dependable technology and there has been no progress. Pakistanis have been made to believe that there is enough coal in Thar to meet all our needs but there is skepticism about Thar due to Mubarakmand as well as political issues in Sindh. Additionally, the problem with such projects is their successful transmission and the biggest issue that will crop up will be that of environmental degradation.

Thar coal is within 150-200 kms of a number of fertilizer plants and can benefit this industry that has been importing coal. The Sindh government has only to gain from the removal of doubts for Thar coal, and make this a viable and long lasting option for Pakistani energy. As of yet, the government is going to take years in trying to set up the power projects. But this is not something that should be subject to bureaucratic delays when resources are lying idle.