Save Thar from coal projects

MURTAZA TALPUR– Development brings prosperity, and we are very happy to see Thar developed and prosperous. But tricking and duping in the name of development and fooling the simpleton people is wrong.

For the last couple of months, Thar is being discussed by several quarters because of a coal project and Ghorano Dam initiated by the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company. The total estimated cost of the project is $ 1.3 billion. The people of Ghorano have been protesting for the last one year, because more than 200 villages will be shifted in order to facilitate the release of black coal water.

Past experience reveal that such mega money maker projects have severely failed. Left Bank Out Fall Drain (LBOD) project by World Bank and Asian Development Bank is just one example. It was introduced in 1984 and its 80-85 per cent of work was completed in December 1999. The main objective of the project was to provide the facility for a drainage system to irrigate agriculture in three districts (Sanghar, Nawabshah and Mirpurkhas) covering about 516,000 hectares through the construction of a network of surface drains, installation of drainage tube wells and the Chotiari reservoir. The total estimated cost of the project was $1020 million. The drain has badly affected the socio-economic and environmental conditions of the area. Whenever there is flood, instead of releasing water into sea, its flow is artificially turned towards the villages and makes irrigated lands inundated.

Therefore, we fear development projects. Through the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company; Thar is going to be ruined and its natural as well as cultural beauty will be affected. Being social and economic development practitioner, I am not anti-development. But I envision simpleton Thari folk in complete destruction. Their abodes will be occupied for outsiders forever. Their diversified culture and philosophy will either be dilapidated or severely endangered. Its flora and fauna will completely be devastated. The air of Thar will be full of greenhouse gases and highly polluted.

These big capitalist companies first come up with tall claims in a bid to fool the people in the name of employment opportunities, empowerment and are also able to use their influence to get these projects advertised. But the reality is quite horrible, because past experiences have resulted in nightmares for the locals. Such projects only had destructive consequences.

Moreover, it is important to note that only a few people benefit from these mega projects. First those who are employed on the higher positions and second are the owners and partners of corporates. The rest is all ‘dirty’ development, and these capitalist companies have their own hidden policies and strategies.

Now no one can stop that much discussed project because much of the work has already been done. The only thing that can be done now is to resettle the indigenous people, provide them with quality education, share benefits, and bring sustainable socio-economic life. Such steps should be made part of the policy documents.

The writer is a Research Officer at Center for Finance for Development, he possess seven years of experience in the social and economic development sector

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect PKonweb’s opinion or policy.

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