The participants of a provincial conference on air pollution and groundwater warned on Saturday of widening the campaign against coal power plants if they were not closed down.
Organised by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum in Ibrahim Hyderi, the conference included the voices of those affected by Thar Engro Coal Power Plant (TECPP), Port Qasim Coal Power Plant and Hub Power Company (Hubco) Coal Power Plant, as well as activists.
They strongly condemned the water schemes initiated for mining coal in Thar, stating that they were meant to displace local people, would affect their drinking water resources and have a negative impact on the environment.
Besides, PFF chairperson Muhammad Ali Shah said that TECPP, situated on the coastal belt, had blocked fishermen’s access to creeks and was source of marine water pollution.
“Pakistan has opted for coal power projects at a time when the world is moving away from them,” he noted, pointing out that even China, which has been developing coal power plants in Pakistan, had given up at least 145 coal-based projects. “Coal is the dirtiest form of energy,” he stated, adding that “there are environmentally friendly energy resources, but the government is not developing them.”
Highlighting the water scarcity in Thar, PFF president lamented that the people of the region did not have access to drinking water and now water used for irrigation would also be diverted towards coal power plants.
He raised alarm over the imminent displacement of the people of Thar and its natural beauty getting marred in the wake of coal mining affecting its groundwater resources and 75 per cent of the desert area’s land being used for coal power projects.
Advocate Leela Ram, from Gorano village, held firm that the people of the region would not accept any development project that would deprive them of their land. He claimed that in order to provide water for coal mining in Thar, the Vejhiar dam was constructed two years ago without the approval of relevant authorities.
To this end, Taj Muhammad Soomro, an affected person from Vejhiar, stated that nobody, including elected representatives, had listened to the grievances of the people of Thar at the time of the dam’s construction. He alleged that “they [the government] told us they needed 40 acres of land for the dam but occupied 80 acres of land.” He added that the government had no plan for their resettlement.