Sunday, August 28, 2016

Pakistan's Thar Desert Riding CPEC Development Wave

Thar, one of the least developed regions of Pakistan, is seeing unprecedented development activity in energy and infrastructure projects.  New roads, airports and buildings are being built along with coal mines and power plants. There are construction workers and machinery visible everywhere in the desert. Along with renewed hopes for the region and its people, development boom is also raising concerns about the environment and its impact on the residents.

Thar Coal Development. Photo Credit: Amar Guriro 


Thar Development Projects:

The Tharparker District or simply the Thar Desert is located in the southeastern province of Sindh. It is  receiving a lot of attention because the desert sands hide an estimated 175 billion tons of coal underneath.

In December 2015, China agreed to invest $1.2 billion to develop Thar coal and establish a 660 MW coal-fired power plant.

The coal deposits are divided into 12 blocks, each containing approximately 2 billion tons. In the first phase the Sindh provincial government has allocated block II to Pakistan's Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) to excavate 1.57 billion tons of coal and build a 660 megawatt power plant. The plant is expected to provide power to the Pakistani national grid by June 2019. Later expansion to produce 1,320 MW of power is also planned.

Muhammad Makki, a doctoral student at the University of Queensland in Australia, recently visited the region.  Makki saw "signs of a resource boom already animating the dull landscape of the region – roads, airports, site offices, power lines, guest houses and rising real estate price are evident".

Thar Population:

The region has a population of 1.6 million. Most of the residents are cattle herders. Majority of them are Hindus.  The area is home to 7 million cows, goats, sheep and camel. It provides more than half of the milk, meat and leather requirement of the province. Many residents live in poverty. They are vulnerable to recurring droughts.  About a quarter of them live where the coal mines are being developed, according to a report in The Wire.

Some of them are now being employed in development projects.  Makki saw an underground coal gasification pilot project near the town of Islamkot where "workers sourced from local communities rested their heads after long-hour shifts".

In the first phase, Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) is relocating 5 villages that are located in block II.  SECMC is paying villagers for their homes and agricultural land.

SECMC’s chief executive officer, Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh, says his company "will construct model towns with all basic facilities including schools, healthcare, drinking water and filter plants and also allocate land for livestock grazing,” according to thethirdpole.net He says that the company is paying villagers above market prices for their land – Rs. 185,000 ($ 1,900) per acre.

Impact to Date:

Islamabad-based Pakistani economist Dr. Pervez Tahir recently visited and found that "the impact of the road, augmented by mobile connectivity, is multidimensional" Here's an excerpt of what he wrote in The Express Tribune:

"Walking long distances has given way to motorbikes and overloaded buses have taken the place of kekras, the rickety shuttle truck-bus of the World War II vintage. Children suffering from malnutrition and other ailments are reported directly to the media as well as the hospital in Mithi on mobile phones. The high numbers of the suffering children had always existed; only the media was late in discovering these cases. The media attention did bring politicians and bureaucrats to the region, facilitated of course by the road. The hospital in Mithi is now much better staffed and well-stocked with medicines. It is now a thriving town with a good number of schools and a college. Even an English-medium private school was in evidence. A sub-campus of a university is also coming up. Locals complained about the lack of girls schools, especially at the post-primary level. This is a sign of growing awareness. There was also frustration that the locals are not given the party tickets for the National and Provincial assembly seats. Mobile connectivity and the road have linked the famous craftswomen of Thar with the main markets much more effectively. At a community meeting in Islam Kot, women were quoting prices that broadly corresponded with the prices charged in Karachi’s Zeb un Nisa Street."

Summary:

Thar development boom is part of Pakistan's efforts to solve its energy crisis as part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects. It is stimulating a lot of economic activity in Tharparker region that will impact the local population and the environment. Sindh government and the companies working there claim that they are trying to maximize benefits for the region and the country while mitigating any problems associated with it. It's important that they live up to their claims.

Here's a video report by Amar Guriro:

https://vimeo.com/179874726

Pakistan’s coal expansion brings misery to villagers in Thar desert from thethirdpole on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Thar Drought

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Abundant, Cheap Coal Electricity For Pakistan

Mobile Connectivity in Pakistan

Pakistan Sees Robust Growth in Consumption of Energy, Cement and Steel

Politcal Stability Returns to Pakistan

Auto and Cement Demand Growth in Pakistan

Pakistan's Red Hot Air Travel Market

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor FDI

Mobile Broadband Subscriptions and Smartphone Sales

Pakistan in MSCI Emerging Market Index

17 comments:

Mansoor said...

Why can't the government put up solar plants? This area gets high sunlight 365 days. Also across the border they have put up one of largest solar plants over there.

Riaz Haq said...

Mansoor: "Why can't the government put up solar plants?"

Solar does not provide 24X7 power.

Pakistan is building solar, wind, and other renewables along with coal, gas, oil, hydro and nuclear power plants. All are needed to deal with rapidly growing demand to support the country's rising economy.

Majumdar said...

Great news, sir. On a related note, on the Indian side of the border in Gujarat, such makeshift buses are called chhakras very similar to your khekras.

Regards

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan Planning Minister Ahsan calls for developing #Thar into a model city. #CPEC #Energy #Coal

http://www.dawn.com/news/1258064

Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal has stressed the need for a master plan to develop Thar into a model city and asked the Sindh government and investors in the Engro Power Plant to take necessary steps to realise this goal.

Economic activity in Thar should not just be geared to earn profits, but also focus on the economic and social uplift of the area, said the minister. “We should not repeat the mistakes made in Sui,” he said.

The minister was chairing a fortnightly review meeting of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) at the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform here on Thursday.

He directed to finalise the plan to switch Gwadar Power Plant from coal to LNG or oil on an urgent basis to meet the energy needs of the port city. The meeting reviewed the progress on projects in energy, road infrastructure, railway and Gwadar under the CPEC framework.

Mr Iqbal instructed to fast track the construction work on CPEC projects to ensure their completion within the stipulated time frame. He suggested to adopt a smarter and scientific approach and urged for mobilising the required financial resources promptly for the smooth execution of work on these projects.

Reviewing the energy projects under CPEC, Mr Iqbal said that speedy work on these ventures is necessary to tackle the energy crisis and power needs of industrial zones under the scheme. He said that with the completion of energy projects in the early harvest schemes, approximately 10,000MW would be added to the national grid by 2018.

He asked the ministry of water and power to present an integrated plan for generation, transmission and distribution for the next three years within one week to ensure that the new power will be distributed to consumers in a planned manner.

He called for the induction of young Pakistani engineers in power plants to enable them to learn about the setting up and fabrication of power plants from their Chinese counterparts.

Mr Iqbal also underlined the need to use CPEC projects to make the country a manufacturing economy, instead of a trading one for sustained economic growth.

The planning minister directed the authorities concerned to consider urban planning requirements while devising the master plan for Gwadar and also called for enforcing land-zoning laws to rationalise the prices of land in the city.

The meeting also reviewed KKH-II (Thakot-Havalaian section), the Multan-Sukkur section of Karachi-Peshawar Motorway, Matiari-Lahore Transmission Line, ML-1 Railway Track and the LNG Pipeline Project and expressed satisfaction over the progress of CPEC projects.

r_sundar said...

Another ecological disaster in the making. A new coal plant, at a time when the world is moving away from it - or atleast trying.
Thar coal is at best mediocre.

Riaz Haq said...

sundar: " Another ecological disaster in the making. A new coal plant, at a time when the world is moving away from it - or atleast trying. Thar coal is at best mediocre. "

The world average production of coal electricity is 41% of total while India generates 72% and Pakistan 0.1% from coal, according to the World Bank:

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.ELC.COAL.ZS


In addition, India's coal-fired power plants are old and dirty; Pakistan's use latest clean technology.

SECMC’s Shaikh admitted that lignite is the worst form of coal, but he claimed that his company will be using state of art modern technology to collect the fly ash from the coal chimney and dump it in a site that the company will build in the future, thus minimising the damage from fly ash.

http://thewire.in/62053/pakistans-coal-expansion-brings-misery-to-villagers-in-thar-desert/


Meanwhile, Modi Government has has a goal of tripling domestic coal production by 2020 to fuel a dramatic increase in coal power generation.


http://endcoal.org/2016/08/cross-currents-hit-indian-governments-grand-coal-expansion-plans/

Riaz Haq said...

#Chinese enterprise to boost green, sustainable energy development in #Pakistan under #CPEC - Global Times
http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1003644.shtml

China will help boost green, low-carbon and sustainable energy development to address power shortage in Pakistan, vowed a Chinese entrepreneur on Monday on the occasion as the two-day China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Summit and Expo are being held in Islamabad.

"This is one of our core concepts when we implement the out-going strategy. We share our advancing technologies and experiments with the countries we invested in," Yan Zhiyong, chairman of the Power Construction Corporation of China, or Power China, told Xinhua on Monday.

"We are not coming only for big projects, we are here to help countries, such as Pakistan, to plan and design their future energy development blueprints so as to address problems they are facing and to bring them into realities," said Yan, who is fighting for a responsible image for Chinese enterprises that increasingly engaged in world arena.

Many China-involved projects overseas are questioned by western countries over ecological issues. However, for his part, Yan said all the projects by Power China will abide by local standards if the countries have higher environmental protection clauses than that of China, while, if their standards are less strict, it will follow as same as China's regulation.

The eye-catching Port Qasim coal-fired power project in Karachi in southern Pakistan is one of the best examples of Yan's concepts. The project adopts a costly method to lower the temperature of the seawater used to cool the generating units so as to prevent from heating up water temperature around the coast.

Abiding by local and World Bank's environmental protection regulations, the Qasim power plant, with a total installed capacity of 1,320 megawatt, will provide 9,000 gigawatt hour power to meet Karachi's electricity shortage in the southern Asia country.

Meanwhile, the Qasim project will also create over 3,000 jobs for the Pakistani people directly and will increase 500 jobs or training positions for locals every year after its operation.

Yan said that it is very important to train more local people to be qualified to operate the power plant and other utilities invested or constructed by Power China. "It's just like the proverb which says give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach him to fish, he will never go hungry."

The chairman also suggested the Pakistani government to develop hydropower and wind power as the country obtains abundant water-power and wind-power resources.

"On one hand, utilizing local power resources will decrease energy import costs so as to lower energy prices domestically. That will benefit the people here. On the other hand, it will ensure Pakistan's energy security by depending on its own resources," according to Yan, adding that "we must put a country's demands into our consideration when we are going to launch a project."

Yan said the CPEC is a part of Chinas Belt and Road Initiative which aims at optimizing regional resources and enhancing connectivity between involving countries so as to achieve the goal of common development, and Power China has the ability to fulfill its role in helping Pakistan shake off energy shortage.

Earlier the day, addressing the inaugural session of the CPEC summit, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that the CPEC would not only serve as a game-changer for Pakistan, but a fate-changer for entire region by helping it get rid of economic deprivation and attain peace and prosperity.

"The CPEC is a new concept of diplomacy based on shared goals of prosperity for Pakistan and the region, and a project to eliminate poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment. It will not only improve Pakistan's own infrastructure but will also provide it the much needed know-how, knowledge and expertise in new technologies," said the prime minister.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s #3G/4G penetration doubles to 24% in 12 months - #Mobile #Broadband http://bit.ly/2bz57WK

Pakistan’s mobile broadband (3G/4G) subscriber base more than doubled over the past year to 31.8 million at the end of July.

According to the Pakistan Telecoms Authority (PTA), 3G/4G penetration has jumped from 11 per cent to 23.8 per cent over the past 12 months. Operators added an average of 1.43 million 3G/4G subs a month, but the pace picked up in July with the five key mobile players adding 2.3 million in a single month.

Pakistan has just 1.17 million 4G users. China Mobile’s Zong has nearly 800,000, while Warid has about 370,000. A year ago they each had just over 100,000 4G subs.

Mobilink is the 3G market leader with 10.2 million subs — up from just under four million a year ago. Telenor Pakistan was second with 8.6 million, a net gain of nearly four million, while Zong was third with 6.5 million (up from 3.1 million a year ago). Number four Ufone doubled its 3G subs during the period to 5.3 million.

The country has 133.3 million mobile subscribers, giving it a mobile teledensity of 69 per cent, which has been stable over the past year. Mobilink is the largest operator with 39.5 million total mobile subscribers, followed closely by Telenor (38.1 million). Zong again was third with 25.6 million, and Ufone fourth with 19.5 million.

Anonymous said...

http://blogs.wsj.com/briefly/2016/08/30/5-criticisms-un-official-made-of-pakistan/

Anonymous said...

"Another ecological disaster in the making. A new coal plant, at a time when the world is moving away from it - or atleast trying."

Another Indian finds something to criticize Pakistan with, meanwhile half their own population deficate in public.

G. Ali

NBRX said...

We own it and acknowledge it completely and that is the first step in resolving it. However, let's revisit comparisons in a few years - by 2020.

Kadeer said...

I see this CPEC development being overplayed. Without discounting the importance of CPEC, we should wait before we use words like game changer or transformational.
The ultimate measure will be economic growth in terms of GDP and we have to remember the first letter C stands for China which is doing it to gain the most.

Riaz Haq said...

Why #Pakistan's Stock Market Beats #China's And #India's via @forbes

http://www.forbes.com/sites/panosmourdoukoutas/2016/09/14/why-pakistans-market-beats-chinas-and-indias/#1a3ab86b269f

Pakistan’s equity market has been outperforming China’s and India’s markets by a big margin in recent years. In the last twelve months, Global X MSCI MSCI +% Pakistan ETF was up 20%, beating India’s and China’s comparable ETF’s by almost two to one – see table.

That may come as a big surprise to some. Pakistan has been suffering all sorts of terrorist attacks, which makes it a very unstable country to put your money in. And it has been lagging behind both India and China in key macroeconomic metrics like GDP growth rates and unemployment—see table.

Index/Fund 12-month Performance 5-year Performance
Global X MSCI Pakistan (NYSE:PAK) 20% 400%*
IShares China (NYSE:FXI) 9.80% 16.00%
iShares S&P India 50 (NASDAQ:INDY) 12.77 % 33.0%
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets (NYSE:EEM) 5.38% 1.52%
*In local currency.

Source: Yahoo YHOO +0.98%. Finance and Karachi Exchange 9/5/2016

Pakistan’s, India’s and China’s Key Metrics

Country China India Pakistan
GDP $10866 billion 2074 billion $270 billion
GDP Growth yoy 6.7% 7.1% 4.24%
Unemployment 4.05% 4.9% 5.9%
Inflation Rate 1.3% 5.05% 3.56%
Capital flows -594 HML -$300 million -$1882 million
Government Debt to GDP 43.9% 67.2% 64.8%
What does the collective wisdom of markets see in Pakistan’s markets that others are missing?

A few things. First, terrorist attacks don’t usually affect financial markets, unless they are disruptive to trade, which hasn’t been the case in Pakistan. Second, Pakistan is a frontier rather than an emerging market, and therefore, favored by the numbers game. Third, its market reform efforts have been getting a couple of votes of confidence from overseas like $1 billion in support from the World Bank – and a couple of domestic acquisitions from foreign suitors like the acquisition of Karachi’s K-Karachi by Shanghai Electric Power Co. This has all been music to the ears of foreign investors.

Riaz Haq said...

#Sukkur-#Multan motorway to create 10,000 jobs: #China | SAMAA TV #CPEC #Lahore-#Karachi Motorway

http://www.samaa.tv/economy/2016/09/sukkur-multan/

Chinese Deputy Ambassador, Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday that world largest construction company was implementing Sukkur-Multan section of Karachi-Lahore motorway project creating more than 10,000 jobs for local people of Punjab and Sindh provinces.

As many as 20 camps had been set up for the staff participating in the construction work of US$ 2.9 billion mega project, he said while speaking at a national conference on CPEC: Macro and Micro Economic Dividends for Pakistan and the Region, held here.

Terming CPEC as flagship projects of One Belt One Road initiative by Chinese President, Xi Jinping, he said, his country had so far invested US$ 14 billion in 30 early harvest projects being completed under CPEC out of which 16 were under construction.

He expressed his satisfaction over the pace of work on different energy, transport, infrastructure and road projects, he said, Chinese government encouraged qualified companies to invest in Pakistan and explore business and trade opportunities.

Zhao Lijian said, in year 2013, China was at number 13 on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) list of Pakistan, adding, last year China had become number one inventer after the commissioning of CPEC initiative.

Giving details of energy projects being completed in year 2017, he said, 70 percent work on Sahiwal Coal Power Project had been completed and its first unit would start producing electricity by end of June next year.

He said, Port Qasim Power Project and Dawood Wind Power project would soon be completed.

The Chinese Deputy Ambassador said, Karot Hydro Power project was being competed from Silk Road Fund announced by the Chinese President. – APP

Riaz Haq said...

“Doesn’t it just look like Mars?” says a Pakistan Army lieutenant colonel, as laborers toil under the blinding sun, building a road across the barren deserts of Balochistan.

Against a backdrop of scorched mountains, workers cut steel bars and prepare rock for crushing near a viaduct that crosses a dry river bed. In the distance, a truck kicks up dust, bringing materials to the site. Army vehicles patrol the road with signal jammers, while snipers scan the hills—the lair of armed separatists and bandits until a military campaign cleared most of them out a few years ago.

This is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s biggest gambit in his so-called One Belt, One Road project to rebuild the ancient Silk Road, a trading route connecting China to the Arabian Sea that slices through the Himalayas and crosses deserts and disputed territory to reach the ancient fishing port of Gwadar, about 500 miles by boat from Dubai.

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The project includes coal-fired, solar and wind power stations and a network of highways running 3,000 kilometers down the length of the country, from the freezing passes of the Karakoram Highway to the Arabian Sea. They will run through Kashmir, an area claimed by both India and Pakistan that is subject to frequent border clashes, and restive Balochistan, which Pakistan annexed in 1948.
“The energy policy was there for anyone to come and invest, but others were just looking at the political risk,” Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said in an interview in Islamabad on July 25. “China took a bet on Pakistan when others were shy.”

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The cornerstone of the project is Gwadar, 30 minutes from the border with Iran, or an eight-hour drive from Karachi along a two-lane coastal highway that twists through jagged weather-beaten hills and across arid dust-blown plains.
Bought from the Sultanate of Oman in the 1950s, Gwadar is not connected to Pakistan’s power grid, using electricity imported from Iran, also a major source of fuel and consumer goods, much of it smuggled across the border.
Kids here play soccer, rather than the cricket that is popular elsewhere in Pakistan, wearing jerseys of European stars like England captain Wayne Rooney and France’s Paul Pogba. For centuries, the city looked to the sea for its wealth. Wooden fishing boats clustered in the bay haul lobsters and jumbo shrimp that now find their way to China and other markets in East Asia.

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For 26-year-old Mohammad Younis, Chinese money has meant an escape from needing to find a job at sea. As a teenager he joined a gang of fuel smugglers, driving pickups from Iran. After the authorities clamped down, he landed a job as a driver at the Pearl Continental, a five-star hotel built in 2006 that hosts Chinese engineers.
The hotel plans to triple capacity within five years and add office and apartment blocks, said General Manager Salman Saeed Khan.
“Development is happening at a faster pace than ever before, now that the Chinese have come,” said Younis. “It’s good. We will get jobs.”


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-29/china-s-new-silk-road-hinges-on-a-small-pakistan-port

Riaz Haq said...

Remote northern #Pakistan village Gojal transformed by #education , #CellPhone, #Internet, new highway http://on.natgeo.com/2dPriY5 via @NatGeo

PASSU, Pakistan—Sajid Alvi is excited. He just got a grant to study in Sweden.

“My Ph.D. is about friction in turbo jet engines,” Alvi says. “I will work on developing new aerospace materials—real geeky stuff!”

Alvi’s relatives have come to bid him farewell as he prepares to leave his mountain village and study in a new country, some 3,000 miles away.

“We will see you again,” one of them says as they hang out in the potato field in front of Alvi’s house. “You know you won’t get far with a long beard like that. You look like Taliban!”

Alvi, dressed in low-hanging shorts and a Yankees cap, is far from a fundamentalist: He’s Wakhi, part of an ethnic group with Persian origins. And like everyone else here, he is Ismaili—a follower of a moderate branch of Islam whose imam is the Aga Khan, currently residing in France. There are 15 million Ismailis around the world, and 20,000 live here in the Gojal region of northern Pakistan.

I’ve been visiting Gojal for 17 years, and I’ve watched as lives like Alvi’s have become more common here. Surrounded by the mighty Karakoram Range, the Ismailis here have long been relatively isolated, seeing tourists but little else of global events. But now, an improved highway and the arrival of mobile phones have let the outside world in, bringing new lifestyles and opportunities: Children grow up and head off to university, fashions change, and technology reshapes tradition. Gojal has adjusted to all of this, surprising me every time I return by showing me just how adaptable traditions can be.

With these photos, I hope to add nuance to our understanding of Pakistan, a country many Westerners associate with terrorism or violence. People have suffered from this reputation, and many feel helpless in trying to change it. The Pakistan I’ve seen is different from that popular perception. I returned there this summer with my family and focused my attention on a young and forward-thinking community in Gojal, a place I know well.

I first came here in the summer of 1999. I was 25 and my girlfriend and I bought one-way tickets to Pakistan. We were looking for inspiring treks (the Karakoram Range has the highest concentration of peaks taller than 8,000 meters). Back then, we were among the roughly 100,000 foreign tourists to visit northern Pakistan each year.

We stayed for months, opening new passes, learning the language, and exploring the Karakoram, Hindu Kush, and Pamir. I kept returning, but over the years, I saw the number of fellow hikers plunge. The tourism department now records only a few thousand foreign visitors each year.

“Following the terrible September 11th attacks, anyone involved in tourism had to sell their jeeps or hotels; no tourists dared to come here anymore,” says Karim Jan, a local tour guide.

With each return visit, I noticed other changes. While outsiders were rare, the improved Karakoram Highway, now able to host vehicles other than Jeeps and 4x4s, brought in local tourists from south Pakistan, and southern cities became more accessible to the Wakhi.


Young men and women began leaving to study in these cities, and they came back for summer holiday dressed in new, hip fashions. Shops multiplied along the road, selling new spices, sugary snacks, and sodas. Biryani rice, a favorite dish from Punjab, now often replaces the traditional turnip soup or buckwheat pancakes during celebrations.

But despite what I’ve seen change on the surface, the spirit of Gojal is very much the same.

Riaz Haq said...

#Chinese to invest in #Pakistan's 5 deserts to make oases: Cholistan, Thal, Thar, Indus, Kharan http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2016/11/08/business/with-cpec-hopes-high-for-investment-in-5-deserts/ … via @epakistantoday

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Chinese company, the Elion Resources Group (ERG), is eager to turn Cholistan desert, Thal desert, Indus Valley Desert, Thar Desert and Kharan desert into oasis by implementing ecological system, eco-environment infrastructure and mechanism of technological innovation.

Plan vision aims to reclaim land from sand by promoting vegetative cover, establishing forest (Afforestation and reforestation), controlling desertification, developing severe weather-resistant cultivable lands and uplifting the lives of locals through innovating husbandry, pharmacy and tourism.

ERG, being one of the largest desert ecology enterprises in the world, Dr. Javed Iqbal, PhD in environmental Sciences and Engineering says, is capable to change disadvantage of deserts into advantage. “It has done wonders by rehabilitating China’s ecology system, promoting China’s eco-civilization and green economy at the national level and boosting global green civilization, the betterment of eco-environment in desert areas, poverty eradication and green economy development by utilizing cutting-edgy scientific technology,” he says.

During an intensive talk with 8-member Pakistan delegation who recently visited Inner Mongolia China, He Pengfei, executive general manager of branding, Elion Resource Group shows avid interest in changing the fate of Pakistani deserts.

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He cited the example of Kabuqi desert in Inner Mongolia, seventh largest desert in China which was once a barren land, uncultivable area with no water, no electricity and no future.

“Sand storms reigned supreme, survival rate of tree in the arid desert was even under 10 percent. Grasslands and farmlands were facing extinction. Livestock was depleting and living condition had worsened. However, ERG took on all challenges and today it has afforested more than 6000 square kilometer in Kabuqi desert and built up a comprehensive sand economy system worth over 30 billion Chinese Yaun based on six eco-industry sectors ranging from husbandry to desert tourism, pharmacy to photovoltaic power generation,” he explains,

The ecological industry, he claims, in the desert has provided over 5000 employment opportunities for local peasants and herdsmen, while free professional training has also been provided to make them the new-generation ecological construction workers, tourist service staff and skilled workers of intensive breeding and planting.


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Thar Desert spans an area of 175,000 square kilometers. It is the seventh largest desert on the planet and the third largest in Asia.

Agriculturist Dr. Humayun Faisal says that Pakistan governments, in past, launched some projects to increase the prospects of irrigation and cultivation in the Thal desert by unveiling Greater Thal Canal project (phase I and Phase II) costing Rs. 30 billion in 2001 but unfortunately project stands incomplete so far. Under the current fiscal budget, Punjab Provincial Development Working Party again allocated Rs 6261.701 million for Greater Thal Canal Project (GTC) -Phase-II (Chaubara Branch). If Chinese company, the Elion Resources Group (ERG) and Pakistan concerned quarter agree for desert projects, including GTC and others will bring revolutionary changes in the region and uplift the lives of local people who are forced to lead a nomadic and semi-nomadic lives with meager avenue of livelihood, education , health and other civic facilities, he hopes.