The work on ongoing Thar coal project, jointly ventured by Sindh Government and ENGRO, is progressing rapidly by being apathetic to local community’s concerns and cries over it. Indeed, the project, if carried out by consensus among different stakeholders, has no less importance for the national development as well as for local community but currently it is mired in protests and long marches by the infirm against the firm and powerful ones for their livelihood, sustenance, survival and sustainability. 

Looking objectively and emphatically, one observes that we are heading towards the opposite side. It is pity that the world is moving towards renewable energy resources, we have just started exploiting the non-renewable energy resources (Thar coal having volume 175 billion tones). On world forums, while it keeps promising to limit the global warming by reducing fossil fuel usage, Pakistan itself has increased the usage by exploiting new fields. On one hand, Sindh government is concerned about environmental impacts that would cause Karachi and Thatta districts being submerged by the end of 21st century, on the other, Sindh government is a major shareholder in the coal project Block-2, is determined to early completion of it at any cost by being indifferent to local community’s cries and commotion against Gorano Dam. 

Agonized from lack of potable water, famine like conditions, dying children due to malnutrition and the lowest HDI, Thari’s conditions will aggravate due to so-called development through the coal project. Thar has been facing famine every alternate year from a century, therefore, it causes food insecurity and malnutrition that exposes their people and livestock to invulnerabilities and extinction. Its people are drinking underground water that is not drinkable according to Pakistan Commission of Research in Water Resources, and are living in hovels that couldn’t shelter them in extreme heat and cold. Moreover, a part of so-called developmental project, the Gorano Dam, covering area of 2700 square kilometres and affecting 12 villages populace and their livestock will make the underground water more brackish and undrinkable, infertile. The fertile land due to its seepage and water-logging, at last will force the villagers to flee from its locale. After the extraction of coal, coal-fired power plants would pose serious hazards to the populace, livestock and wildlife in Thar and would exacerbate their woes. 

After all, the people are not against the coal project, they just want their rights protected and life sustained by consensus based peaceful solution. Those who would be affected by Gorano dam, demand only for relocation of the dam to marsh land near Indian border or any other suitable place taking locals in confidence. If SECMC is reluctant to relocate the dam another option is to resettle the villagers affected by the dam, to any place mutually agreed upon with sufficient compensation and/or employing at least one from affected family according to their skills they possess. Moreover, to empower the people of Thar and smooth working of the project, fixed share of jobs should be apportioned for them for mutual benefit and harmony. Sindh government should use soft power rather than hard power and an indifferent attitude. 

BHAGWAN BHATTI,  

Tharparkar, March 11.