Sindh’s plan to develop coal policy

WITHOUT power, progress is not possible. Electricity plays a vital role in our economic development. Main sources of our energy comes from oil, gas, hydel and nuclear technologies.

After the discovery of Thar coal deposits, it has become imperative to have a coal policy suitable for electric power generation. The Sindh Coal Authority (SCA) came into existence through an Act passed by the Sindh Assembly in 1993.

It was a vision of the late Benazir Bhutto who had taken the initiative as regards Thar coal and Keti Bunder projects at that time. According to the Sindh Coal Act 1993, the SCA’s main aim was exploration, development, mining, processing, utilisation, research for maximum utilisation of resources to meet the increasing demand of energy to promote industrialisation, but after the dissolution of her second government in 1996 these projects were closed.

Other coal deposits of significance in Sindh are located at Sonda (Jhurruk) estimated at 7.12 billion tons; at Lakhra (Dadu) having 1.33 billion tons and at Badin having 0.061 billion tons. Thar coal deposits are worth $8 trillion and if converted into energy, its value comes to $25 trillion.

It can generate 100,000 MW of electricity for 300 years. These reserves are equivalent to at least 850 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas, these are about 30 times higher than Pakistan’s proven gas reserves of 28 TCF.

Recent studies have also confirmed that 185 billion tons of coal deposits in Sindh are second only to 247 billion tons reserves in the US and much higher than 157 and 115 billion tons reserves of Russia and China, respectively.

Thar coal reserves are equivalent to at least 400 billion barrels of oil, i.e. equivalent to oil reserves of Saudi Arabia and Iran together. One estimate puts our coal energy at 576 billion barrels of oil, which is equivalent to combined oil reserves of the three largest producers.

If only two per cent of the coal reserves at Thar gets utilised, we could generate 20,000 MW of electricity for 40 years.

To generate electricity with the existing Thar coal reserves, it will require an investment of $2 billion, which will amount to only one-fourth of the estimated cost of Kalabagh dam construction.

The Sindh government has strong reservations about the establishment of the Thar Coal Authority (TCA), and says it is tantamount to taking control of the province’s natural resources.

A simple notification cannot render null and void the Sindh Coal Act 1993, which was passed by the Sindh Assembly, the only forum that has the right to amend it.

The Sindh government has rejected the move, calling it ultra vires and interference in provincial affairs.

The chief minister has also made it clear that the already available Sindh Coal Authority will not be abolished. Only the Sindh government is empowered to establish any authority or forum on the coal business.

AS I perceive, the centre’s only role in the context of the Thar Coal reserves is that of a facilitator and not as a main player. According to the Constitution, minerals are purely a provincial subject and no federal government can issue a notification to abolish a provincial law.

The government also plans to establish a Rs600 million institute for training in mechanised mining with foreign help. The provincial government has also allocated Rs360 million for preparing the feasibility for developing coal reserves in Thar and Sonda.

If we start utilising coal, granite and other resources of Thar, we would be able to fulfil our promises as per our party manifesto. Being a legislator we would not allow anyone to usurp the rights of Sindh.

HUMERA ALWANI
MPA, Thatta

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