Sindh is the largest gas producing province of Pakistan, which contributes more than 70 percent gas of total production in the country. It is not a wonder then that it is considered the energy basket of Pakistan. However, this “energy basket” consumes only 46 percent of the gas it produces. However, Sindh being the richest province in terms of natural resources, is in contradiction with the poverty, unemployment, shortage of CNG, load shedding of gas, and dearth of petroleum that it faces.  In spite of this lamentable situation, our law makers’ role is restricted to silent spectators. They are reluctant to take interest in ensuring that the people of this province get their fundamental rights.

The history of gas exploration in Sindh is a century old. In 1925, Burmah Oil Company had drilled the first well at Khairpur but it did not yield any output. After the discovery of Sui (Balochistan) in 1952, northern Sindh became the target area for hydrocarbons exploration. Pakistan Petroleum Limited discovered gas in Khairpur (1957), Kandhkot (1959) and Mazarani (1959). In 1957, Pak-Stanvoc Petroleum Project had discovered a huge gas reserve of 6.8 Trillion Cubic Feet in Mari. The same company also drilled wells in Talhar (1957), Mirpur Bathoro (1958), Nabisar (1958) and Badin. Burmah Oil Company drilled wells in Lakhra (1958), Badro (1958-59) and Phulji- Dadu (1958). These reserves had a meagre amount of gas. In 1961, Oil and Gas Development Corporation was established which discovered gas at Sari (1966), Kothar (1973) and Hundi (1977).

These are some major gas fields in Sindh which produce a huge volume of it. In district Sanghar, 39 million cubic feet of gas reserves have been discovered during drills – the country’s second largest oil and gas producing field. This is the sixth discovery in the same exploration block and is estimated to produce 2,100 barrels per day of condensate and 11.05 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) of natural gas. This discovery will add more hydrocarbon reserves and also reduce the gap between supply and demand of oil and gas during the current energy crises in the country.

Qadirpur gas field in Ghotki is Pakistan's third largest gas producing field with 3.6 trillion cubic feet of balance recoverable reserves. Its daily production from 36 out of total 45 drilled wells ranges from 600 to 700 million cubic feet of gas per day.  Sawan Gas Field, one of Pakistan’s largest gas reserves, is also in Sindh. In Sawan Field, 14 out of total 15 drilled wells are supplying 270×106 cu ft (7,600,000 m3)d gas to Sui Northern Gas Pipelines and 40×106 cu ft (1,100,000 m3)d to Sui Southern Gas Company. The total volume of gas sold from Sawan field during 2009-2010 was 104,754×106 cu ft (2.9663×109 m3) as compared to 123,485×106 cu ft (3.4967×109 m3) during 2008-2009.  Sawan Gas Plant has its own airfield for transportation of staff due to its remote location. The airfield is known as Sawan Airport.

Under Article XXIX of the Petroleum Concession Agreement (PCA), for community development, it is obligatory for oil and gas companies to undertake social welfare programs in the concession areas and also Under the Petroleum Exploration & Production Policy 2009, the size of the amount to be spent on social welfare has been linked with the volume of hydrocarbons produced from the area. Though Sindh produces natural resources of billions of rupees per year, it is still far behind in human development indicators. In fact, the major gas producing districts of Sindh are the worst in their state of human development.

The employment of local people in gas fields, mostly located in remote and underdeveloped areas, is another matter of serious concern. Oil and gas companies have their head offices in big cities like Islamabad and Karachi where very few of Sindh’s local people are employed. The reason behind this is that oil and gas companies often give the excuse that they do not find qualified and experienced people from rural Sindh. This is an illogical argument as the province now has reputed universities and technical institutes producing a large number of professionals with the required qualification.  According to the Petroleum Exploration & Production Policy 2009, it is obligatory for companies to invest in the training of Pakistani employees. This amount can be used to train unskilled or semi-skilled locally hired human resource. Hence, the excuse of unavailability of trained local human resource loses justification.

In Pakistan, the federal government practically has all control over the gas fields located in provinces. The recently enacted 18th amendment in the constitution, however, promises larger share for the oil and gas producing provinces. The amended Clause 172 (3) says “Subject to the existing commitments and obligations, mineral oil and natural gas within the province or the territorial waters adjacent thereto shall vest jointly and equally in the Province and the Federal Government”. But unfortunately these changes have not been implemented so far. There is a desperate need to execute this clause effectively to ensure the provision of fundamental rights to the people of Sindh.

It is an undeniable fact that all natural resources belong to people, not to the governments or companies, and the exploitation of these public resources is a sheer violation of the fundamental human rights of the communities that own them. It is necessary for the federal government to recognize natural resources as provincial resources and to give provinces the right over these resources. At least 50 percent jobs in all categories, especially in the management cadre, should be given to local people, and 50 percent of the amount of production should be spent in the concession areas for the development of their people. It is the state’s responsibility to reward local communities judiciously.