The emissions from the massive clusters of coal mines and power plants in Thar will cause alarming levels of toxic depositions in the region and expose the local population to serious health risks, according to a Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) study.
The study, titled ‘Air Quality, Health and Toxic Impacts of the Proposed Coal Mining and Power Cluster in Thar, Pakistan,’ was launched via a video conference organised by the Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy on Friday.
“Since Pakistan is already suffering from air pollution levels that are among the highest in the world, the emissions induced by coal mines and power plants of Thar will further reduce life expectancy in the country and increase the vulnerability of its citizens to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said CREA lead analyst Lauri Myllyvirta, while speaking at the online ceremony.
The Thar emissions would constitute one of the largest hotspots of mercury and carbon dioxide in South Asia, he revealed, adding that the increase in mercury concentrations in crops could also be potentially dangerous for the inhabitants of the area.
The study also pointed out errors and omissions in the data used in the Environmental Impact Assessment reports for two coal power projects as well as violations of the Sindh Ambient Air Quality Standards and World Health Organisation guidelines.
Addressing the non-compliance and misreporting of the plants’ environmental impacts, Alternative Law Collective’s Zubair Ahmad Abro, who has been engaging in a legal battle for the communities adversely impacted by Thar coal power projects, stated, “What the study reveals is just [the tip of] a proverbial iceberg of misleading the public through data manoeuvring.”
Highlighting the risks, Pakistan Fisherfolk Form (PFF) chairperson Muhammad Ali Shah claimed that the indigenous people of Thar would “face dirty and harmful energy projects which will impact their health, safety, livelihoods, homes, food production systems, water, environment and ecology.”
Contending that this would deepen poverty and destroy the way of life of the people of Thar, he demanded that the Sindh government adopt renewable energy projects instead of mining and importing coal for power generation.
According to the study, over a 30-year operating period, the emissions from the coal mines and power plants would be responsible for 29,000 air pollution-related deaths, 40,000 asthma emergency room visits, 19,906 new cases of asthma in children, 32,000 pre-term births, 20 million days of work absences as well as 57,000 years lived with disability related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and strokes.