Coal power projects in Gadani: Lives at risk

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The Balochistan Post’s special correspondent Shahdad Baloch from Hub reports on Pakistan-China joint venture “Gadani Energy Park”, designed to generate electric power through coal.

In 2013, Pakistani government announced construction of 10 power plants near Gadani coast with help of China. The US Dollar 1.4billion project will use coal to generate 6000MW of electric power to ease Pakistan’s drastic power crisis. China will fund and provide technical assistance for the project that is mainly designed to provide power to Pakistan’s largest city Karachi.

TBP’s correspondent, Shahdad Baloch, visited Lasbella University of Agriculture, Water and Marine Scinces (LUAWMS) to get the views of students and teachers of university regarding the Gadani Energy Park project.

Environmental impacts of coal power

A LUAWMS professor, who opposes the idea of using coal to generate power, told TBP correspondent that the harmful emissions and wastage from the project will immensely disturb the ecology of Gadani coast. The emitted gases will cause lung diseases in inhabitants of Gadani and Hub region. Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) will take a major toll on public health by forming acidic particulates that can penetrate in human lungs. It will also cause acid rains, which will further complicate the already damaging drought in the area. This will destroy the crops, forests and soil not only in Gaddani and Hub but also in Windar, Uthal and adjoining areas making the sole source of economy for the locals wholly redundant.

TBP Correspondent asked Shehak Baloch, a student in LUAWMS, about the positive impacts of the project on locals that could occur due to development in the area. To which he laughed loudly and asked : ‘Do you really think these developments are for us? HUBCO was also built in Hub and there were similar claims about its advantages for the locals when the construction started. We were told it will bring progress, all the villages will receive power, farmers will be able to cultivate their lands and locals will get jobs. However, the reality is in front of you. The power that HUBCO generates does not reach the houses of poor locals but instead runs the factories of rich elite in Karachi. In fact, even the entry-level jobs were provided to people from Karachi. Similarly, Gadani Energy Project is for the power needs of Karachi and other parts of country not for the locals here.’

Another student, Nauroz Mengal, told our correspondent: ‘It is very alarming as western countries and environmental groups have rejected this method of power production long time ago due to its drastic negative impacts but Pakistan is all set to play with our lives. Coal power production has been declared illegal in many countries.

Is China kind to us?

TBP’s Shahdad Baloch asked a journalist Haidar Baloch that concerns of nationalist politicians against Islamabad might be true but don’t you think China is involved in it with good intentions? He replied: ‘If China really had positivity in mind then why did they get rid of all such projects in China? They are fully aware of negative outcomes of coal fueled power plants. China sees this as a business opportunity but for the people of the area this is another death warrant.’

Despite all valid concerns of locals, the work on the project might be completed against the will of Baloch people but this will leave drastic footprints on the ecology of the region, which will harm the future generations too.

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