In the Thar desert, Pakistan has begun to dig up one of the world’s largest deposits of low-grade coal to fuel new power stations that could revolutionise the country’s economy. That is the claim made by politicians, coupled with huge Chinese investment in coal plants, but the economic revolution is beyond our reach for now.

The Supreme Court has termed the Sindh Coal Authority (SCA) “dysfunctional” and directed the provincial Chief Secretary on Friday to hold an inquiry into the projects and schemes undertaken by the energy board. The SCA has been bending many rules including violating laws while making appointments and implementing projects that were not related to exploration, development, processing, mining or utilising of coal in Sindh- projects that’s should be under the purview of other departments. With these concerns of illegal operations coming up against government institutions like the SCA, the actual benefits from coal mining are going to be very meagre for the population.

There as other concerns as well. After the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference COP21 accords, the planet is abandoning coal, but China is financing new coal projects in Pakistan with Chinese coal. The promise is that this will be clean coal after developments in mining technology. “Clean” coal requires an expensive process of capturing and storing the carbon dioxide emitted by coal burning power plants. There have been a number of clean coal projects that have failed in the US, and the drop in oil prices in the US made investing in clean coal technology irrelevant until President Trump came out on the side of coal energy, with the facts missing from his argument as usual.

But Pakistan is not America, and does not have its resources and policy options. Coal is a messy alternative to hydropower energy, but when our politicians have spurned all opportunities to develop clean energy in the last half century, and are only motivated by kickbacks and price tags, we may not have a choice in going down this dusty road if we want to see lights turn on in our houses in another ten years.