I read a news item in the Nation that the Planning Commission has approved Rs 27 billion for a canal to supply water for coal fired plants at Thar. The effort remains seriously misdirected. First the coal has to be mined before any more funds are committed. Now that the March 2011 deadline to produce gas by Under Ground Gasification ( UCG ) has not been met, the focus should be on getting the coal out. Not a single ton of coal has been mined todate, and there are no bulk samples from this deposit yet everyone seems to be developing projects based on assumptions. The following facts have to be addressed: 1. For any meaningful process development bulk samples are needed. 2. The approach should be to establish the mineability first, for which a Test or Development Mine is needed. 3. Burning coal at mouth of mine in the 21st century will not get international funding as it is environmentally unfriendly. 4. Experimental projects like UCG are atleast a decade away from commercialization, the project should not be a hostage to gimmickry and false claims. Energy future of Pakistan depends on the expeditious development of this huge reserve. The real challenge is in getting the coal out everything else can follow. The canal may not be needed for the coal fired boilers if an alternate development route is determined after testing the bulk coal samples. The focus has to be on obtaining bulk samples of Thar Coal. DR FARID A. MALIK, March 14.