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.

Hindu Woman Truck Driver in Thar, Pakistan. Source: Reuters

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".

Hindu Woman Truck Driver in Thar, Pakistan. Source: Reuters 

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

30 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.”

---------


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.

---

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.


---

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.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan #auto parts maker Loads Limited CEO more than bullish on nation's auto sector. #economy #manufacturing

http://tribune.com.pk/story/1310741/optimistic-loads-limited-ceo-just-bullish-pakistans-auto-sector/

Munir Bana advised many of his employees to buy the company’s shares as date of the book-building portion of the IPO neared. Many of them hesitated, but some of them opted to buy a personal stake in the auto part maker’s expansion plan.

Weeks later, many regretted their decision and those who bought the shares wished they had invested more.

After all, the share price of Loads Limited – the last listing on the Pakistan Stock Exchange in 2016 – jumped over 100% within a few weeks of trading. It is currently priced at Rs56.76 after starting on Rs34 and has also handed out 10% bonus shares and Rs1 as dividend to its shareholders.

“Our employees were hesitant to enter the stock market, but when I insisted many of them bought the company’s shares,” said Bana, the CEO of Loads Limited, one of the leading auto part makers in the country.

“Those who did not buy or purchase just a few shares now regret (their decision).”

Before offering 50 million shares through the IPO, the company first offered 2.5 million shares to its employees to engage them in the company’s future aggressive investment plans. The company eventually managed to raise Rs1.7 billion, an amount the company is now using for expansion of its production capacity.

Loads makes radiators, exhaust systems, mufflers, sheet metal components among other parts, and its clients include more than a dozen national and multinational companies engaged in the production of motorcycles, cars and heavy vehicles manufacturers.
Bullish on future growth

Bana, a Chartered Accountant, believes two developments have been positive triggers for the local auto industry — the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $55-billion investment and loan package that envisages changing the way China conducts trade, and the Automotive Development Policy (ADP) 2016-21 announced in March 2016.

Industry experts believe the auto sector would be a major beneficiary of CPEC, given the corridor’s vision of upgrading Pakistan’s road and highways network.

Officials say the country would need heavy vehicles not only during the construction phase, but also after the infrastructure projects are completed.

“New entrants and new models, as well as the increase in heavy vehicles, all speak for themselves,” he said.

Riaz Haq said...

China kickstarting new coal boom in Pakistan

http://www.climatechangenews.com/2017/03/17/china-kickstarting-new-coal-boom-pakistan/


In a region of Pakistan besieged by drought, and blessed with solar potential, China is funding the expansion of huge new coal projects


Chinese investments are speeding up new coal developments in the Thar region of Pakistan, despite local water scarcity and pollution and an abundance of solar energy potential.

The CEO of Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECM), Shamsuddin Ahmad Shaikh, said on Thursday that with government and investor support – particularly from China – its coal developments in Thar are running quicker than expected.

SECM is developing a 1,320MW coal power plant in Thar which is expected to be completed by June 2019.

Also under development is the Sino-Sindh Resources Limited (SSRL)’s open pit mine, which is expected to produce 6.5m metric tonnes a year. It will reach commercial operation as early as 2018. Coal from this pit will power a 1,320MW plant, expected to be operational by 2019.

Addressing a seminar in Karachi, Shaikh said that SECM can “considerably” reduce electricity costs to 6¢ per unit once its Thar coal production reaches a capacity of 4,000MW.

Thar’s provincial chief minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, said the coal projects will “change the face” of Pakistan’s biggest city Karachi and Sindh, the province in which Thar is located.

The seminar was organised by the Express Tribune Media Group, land development company Rafi Group and real estate marketing company, Fast Marketing. It was the first of a series of seminars discussing the driving force behind coal development in Thar, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

A spokesperson from CPEC told Climate Home that “the coal sector in Pakistan is working very fast; mining is approved and we are expecting big changes in Pakistan.”

CPEC is an investment agreement between Pakistan and China for developing infrastructure projects. The first phase is for $46 billion in investments over 15 years. CPEC is “not only an economic corridor but it’s an endless path of prosperity and economic stability,” chief executive of Fast Marketing Asghar Goraya told Climate Home.

CPEC’s “largest portfolio is the energy sector, which is bigger in terms of allocation of funds,” said Shah.

China is “very interested” in investing in Thar coal, said Ali Akbar, executive director at the Association for Water, Applied Education and Renewable Energy (Aware), Paksitan’s largest NGO.

Thar is home to one of the largest coal deposits in the world, with 175 billion tons of coal over 9,000 square kilometres. HoweverAware is campaigning for Thar coal reserves to remain in the ground.

Akbar says people are already feeling the effects of water scarcity and coal dust pollution due to mining activities. Gaining water in Thar is “a very difficult practice,” said Akbar. Animals are used to pull a rope, tied to a bucket. Sometimes the water that is left is 300ft deep, says Akbar.

Due to climate change, droughts are also gaining in intensity in Thar. During drought periods “the animals get weaker and people have to pull ropes by hand,” said Akbar.

People in Thar “need solar or wind energy operated systems to drag out underground water.”

“There are other options [in Thar] for solar energy,” Akbar said. “If the technology is there to not harm the environment, we should go for that.”

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According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Thar has high solar irradiance, receiving up to 5KWh per square meter a day. This is comparable to parts of the Arabian Peninsula, where solar is considered a highly favourable source of electricity.

Riaz Haq said...

This Mile-Wide Hole Could Revolutionize #Pakistan's #Economy - Bloomberg #Thar #Coal #energy

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-21/coal-addiction-spreads-as-chinese-workers-dig-in-pakistan-desert

In the dusty scrub of the Thar desert, Pakistan has begun to dig up one of the world’s largest deposits of low-grade, brown, dirty coal to fuel new power stations that could revolutionize the country’s economy.

The project is one of the most expensive among an array of ambitious energy developments that China is helping the country to build as part of a $55 billion economic partnership. A $3.5 billion joint venture between the neighbors will extract coal to generate 1.3 gigawatts of electricity that will be sent across the country on a new $3 billion transmission network.

“When I came it was a mess. There was nothing here,” said Dileep Kumar, one of the first mining engineers at lead contractor Sindh Engro Coal Mining Co., standing atop the mile-wide hole in the earth, busy with yellow trucks and diggers on the floor below. “Now look at it. This wasn’t possible without the Chinese.”

On paper, Pakistan could be one of Asia’s top economies, with almost 200 million people spread over an area twice the size of California, from the ice-bound peaks of the Karakorum to the warm, dry shores of the Arabian Sea. But it remains hobbled by corruption, political turmoil, terrorism and poverty, all underpinned by a crippling shortage of energy.

The country has natural gas reserves, four nuclear-power stations and the world’s largest dam. Some 700 kilometers north of the Thar mine another Chinese company is helping build a solar farm eight times the size of New York’s Central Park. Yet power outages remain a way of life with blackouts of 12 hours or more even in Karachi and Islamabad. By one estimate, the shortage of electricity is wiping 2 percentage points off economic growth every year.

Thirst for energy is taking Pakistan in the opposite direction of Western countries that are trying to reduce coal power, or use cleaner-burning fuel and technologies. Germany, which still relies on coal-fired stations for two fifths of its electricity, has promised to switch half of them off by 2030.

Pakistan by contrast relies on coal for just 0.1 percent of its power, according to the Pakistan Business Council. The Thar projects and others could see that jump to 24 percent by 2020, according to Tahir Abbas, analyst at Karachi-based brokerage Arif Habib Ltd.

Pakistan’s coal reserves would give the nation a cheap domestic alternative to expensive oil and gas imports. The nation spends about $8 billion a year on imported petroleum and is one of the region’s biggest buyers of liquefied natural gas.

In an effort to curb the import bill and meet demand for power, Pakistan plans to dig up some of the world’s biggest known deposits of lignite, a lower-grade brown coal. But first, it must clear 160 meters of sand to get to the coal.

On a flat, arid plain, separated from a hot cerulean sky by a thin line of spindly scrub, yellow-edged containers sit neatly around paved quadrangles. In the centre of each, a lumpy circle of green turf, irrigated by a hosepipe, provides some respite from the dust and heat.

Riaz Haq said...

Kentucky #Coal Mining Museum in Harlan County switches to #solar power to save money. #Trump #renewables
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/04/06/the-coal-mining-museum-in-harlan-county-ky-switches-to-solar-power/?utm_term=.7f227bf3ba69


Housed in a former commissary building and tucked into the hollers of Harlan County — the heart of Kentucky mining country — is a museum dedicated to all aspects of extracting coal from the state’s mountains.

Mining equipment decorates its walls, while a two-ton block of coal at the front door greets visitors. Children can climb on the museum’s 1940s model electric locomotive that once carried Kentucky men into the mines. An exhibit dedicated to Loretta Lynn (who wrote and who is the “Coal Miner’s Daughter”) sits on the third floor. Guests can even wander through an actual underground coal mine.

Not much about the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum screams modern. Its website — nay, websites — boasts early 1990s Web design, and its advertisement on YouTube appears to have been shot on a handheld camcorder. It sits next to City Hall on Main Street, the only thoroughfare of Benham, Ky. That’s to be expected from a museum dedicated to an old form of energy, which is what makes its own power methods so interesting.

The museum is switching to solar power in hopes of saving money on energy costs, as reported by WYMT and EKB-TV. The installation of solar panels began this week.

“We believe that this project will help save at least $8,000 to $10,000 off the energy costs on this building alone, so it’s a very worthy effort and it’s going to save the college money in the long run,” Brandon Robinson, communications director of Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, which owns the museum, told WYMT.

Robinson wasn’t blind to the incongruity of a coal museum being powered by solar energy, asserting that there’s a symbiosis between the two.

“It is a little ironic,” said Robinson, “But you know, coal and solar and all the different energy sources work hand-in-hand. And, of course, coal is still king around here.”

As Tre’ Sexton, owner of Bluegrass Solar, told EKB-TV, the runoff power collected by the panels will be fed back into Benham’s power grid. The entire town of almost 500 that bills itself as “The Little Town That International Harvester, Coal Miners and Their Families Built!” will be partially run on solar power.

“I know the irony is pretty prevalent,” Sexton told EKB-TV. “But all the same, it is making a big difference, I think, for not only the museum, which will probably eliminate a lot of their overhead, but the city in general.”

“We’re happy to be able to hopefully provide some power to the city of Benham that we’re not using here,” Robinson told EKBTV. “So it’s a great project; it’s a great effort.”

It’s difficult not to see a foreshadowing in the switch to solar power.

About 85 percent of Harlan County voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. The disparity between Hillary Clinton’s and Trump’s campaign promises concerning energy almost assuredly played a factor in that vote.

While Clinton, speaking about renewable energy, infamously said, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” Trump promised “sweeping deregulation” of the coal industry.

Trump’s plan struck a chord with some miners.

Former Harlan County coal miner Mark Gray, 58, recalled to the New York Times the moment a meeting was called at work: “They said we can’t go on with these regulations, we can’t go on with the way the government’s doing.”

Gray hoped Trump’s plan might help.

After all, coal mining was once a major American industry. In 1923, nearly 1 million of America’s 110 million citizens worked as coal miners. Now, the industry employs approximately 77,000 people, fewer employees than the Arby’s restaurant chain.

Riaz Haq said...

‘Pakistan uses supercritical technology for coal power generation’

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/201079-Pakistan-uses-supercritical-technology-for-coal-power-generation

Minister for planning, development and reform Ahsan Iqbal on Thursday came hard on opposition against coal-combusted power plants, saying the country is using supercritical modern technology, which reduces hazardous emissions.

Planning minister categorically rejected the claims that coal power plants would create environmental hazards. He was speaking at a seminar on “CPEC Myths and Realities”, a statement said.

China has pledged at least $55 billion for Pakistan’s infrastructure development projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). More than 60 percent of this investment has been committed for energy projects, which the country, suffering from crippling power shortages, is direly needed.

Experts are against mining of coal at one of the world’s largest coal reservoir, Thar Desert, with an estimated 175 billion tonnes reserve. They said local coal is of poor quality, and needs heavy investment for treatment prior to power generation.

While government encourages coal import, yet it has also partnered China to embark on $3.5 billion project to mine local coal and generate 1,300 megawatts of electricity. “The present government for the first time under CPEC is tapping the Thar coal reserves, which can be a source of energy supply for many hundred years,” Minister Iqbal said.

He said CPEC energy projects will result in generation of additional 10,000MW, which will be added into grid network by 2017. “Increased energy production capacity will help to overcome the prevailing energy crisis. “Energy mix, adopted under CPEC, includes coal, hydel and renewable energy projects.”

Iqbal said CPEC is the platform of inclusive growth, where 85,000 jobs will create for youngsters. CPEC presents Pakistan with a historical opportunity to uplift the country’s status as the hub of economic activity in the region.

He urged the youngsters to prepare themselves in order to benefit from the opportunities offered by CPEC and play a constructive role in transforming the economy to a modern industrial economy by adding value at different levels.

Planning minister further said Pakistan has achieved an economic growth of five percent and become able to create a favourable socio-economic ecosystem, which enjoys political stability. “A favourable ecosystem has resulted in attracting the interest of key global investors, which are now eyeing Pakistan as a potential market for investments.”

He said China is promoting regional and global connectivity across Asia Pacific region as part of its ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative. Similarly, Pakistan’s Vision 2025 focuses on helping Pakistan to leverage its geo-strategic location in order to explore the inherent economic options. “CPEC is a fusion of Pakistan’s vision 2025 and China’s Vision of One Built One Road initiative.”

Iqbal said CPEC has changed the global narrative about Pakistan. “The country which was ranked as the most dangerous country of the world is now recognised as the next emerging economy.” He said the government has convinced global media to recognise Pakistan as a safe haven for investments, which once called Pakistan as ‘safe Heaven for extremists’.

Riaz Haq said...

Rain showers Tharis with food security

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/218012-Rain-showers-Tharis-with-food-security

The current rain spells have changed the landscape of Thar Desert, filling natural water ponds and recharging underground water in the entire Tharparkar and parts of Umerkot districts.

People expect several wild fruits and vegetables to bloom in the coming weeks, which would improve food security in the Tharparkar district. Mushrooms and other wild leafy vegetables have already started flooding the local markets, creating hope for the people, who were in need of rich nutrient food at their doorsteps.

Muhammad Siddiq, leading Rural Development Association (DRA), said, “These vegetables and fruits will benefit the desert people, mainly children and small babies, who presently need proper diet.”

He said many vegetables and fruits are expected to arrive in the markets within a few days, which would be easily accessible for all the people. Siddiq said round gourd (tinda) would arrive in the market after 20 days, melon family fruits in 30-days while green watermelon, mostly cooked as a vegetable, would be brought to the local bazaars in 45-days.

He works in the fields of water management and indigenous tree plantation, and also motivates the local communities to establish kitchen gardens in the desert villages. Siddiq has knowledge about the traditional practices in the desert, especially regarding pre and post rain harvest.

“Rain is a blessing for the desert people after a long dry spell which depleted plants and trees, and degraded the water sources of the region,” he said.

Thar Desert has experienced the worst situation for two consecutive years in terms of food security, unsafe water sources, malnutrition among children, and frequent reports of deaths of newborn babies in scattered areas. Doctors attributed these deaths of babies to the poor diet of mothers.

“After prolonged dryness, fear of shrinking water sources and drought-like situation, these rains have created hope for families, who can live safely,” Siddiq added.

Information gathered from different areas revealed that for now grasses were at a growing stage on sand dunes and plains. It was only benefitting small animals, goats, and sheep. Herders expect more grasses to grow in the following days, which would benefit all animals.

Local mushroom varieties, known for their delicious flavour, have flooded the local urban markets. However, due to lack of preservation technology and poor storage and processing mechanism, this well-known edible item has a very short shelf life, and large quantities often go to waste.

About the traditional process of fodder stocking for winter, local community elders said it depended on the rains. If the desert received five-seven showers within a few days, it would benefit farmers, who would be able to cultivate their lands to grow all the traditional crops and also grasses for livestock rearing.

Traditionally, people collected fodder after the rainy season ended and kept it in stock for using during winters. Currently, the grass stocks would be enough for the next three months. However, to make the stocks last till winter, the region should receive more heavy rains as per the communities, so they could have access to sufficient food and fodder.

The desert communities mostly depend on rain-fed farming and livestock rearing. Thar has around six million livestock population. They call this timely rain a blessing and believe it would benefit all the people, water sources, lands, and livestock. Umerkot livestock deputy director Dr Ganesh Kumar Khatri in his updates warned herders to be careful, and said it was common for small and weak animals to fall prey to certain viral infections during this season. Apart from viral infections, eating harmful and alien grasses or drinking stagnant water could also cause problems for animals.

Riaz Haq said...

Blessings and bane that come with rain
Zulfiqar Kunbhar September 3, 2017

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/blessings-bane-come-rain/#.WbSExtOGN-U

Sindh’s Thar Desert has witnessed severe drought in the past four years. The long dry spell caused acute shortage — of food for humans, fodder for livestock and water for wildlife. During this worst drought in the recent history, hundreds of infants have died of malnutrition. The famine like situation has killed not just livestock, an important source of livelihood, but also wild species.
But the recent monsoon rains had a magical effect on the desert which has turned green from brown, promising good times ahead not just for humans but wildlife as well.
At the same time poaching and trafficking of baby wild animals including peafowl, deer, partridge and wild rabbit in the region is picking up. Thar Desert is home to around 300 species of mammals, birds and reptiles.
Prolonged drought had impacted the economy, society and environment of Thar Desert. Natural water ponds (locally known as Tarae) dried up and ground water level deepened, affecting all forms of life. There was no cultivation. Green pastures, which are the main source of food for livestock and wildlife, had depleted. Locals would spend most of their time in search of food and water. In the drought years, almost half of the total population of locals migrated along with their cattle to the neighbouring barrage areas in search of food. So did the wildlife species.

Although last year there were some rains in the desert they were not on time, hence not beneficial for locals as they could not cultivate crop due to delayed rains. Also, there was no greenery.
This year monsoon arrived on time. The desert received the first rain in the beginning of July that continued for several days, restoring the beauty of the desert.
Rain has provided the much-awaited relief to the living beings and natural habitat. Thar Desert is recovering from the bad impacts of drought. Wetter Thar means greenery and pastures all around as this part is considered the most fertile desert. There is greenery on vast areas of sand dunes locally called ‘Bhit’. That also means better food supply to flora and fauna of the area.
Much of Thar Desert’s portion lies in Tharparkar district of Sindh, stretching over 22,000 square kilometres. 300 kilometres east of Karachi, along Indian border, it has faced persistent but periodic droughts for the past several decades.

Riaz Haq said...

India's river-linking project will be disastrous: Water man Rajendra Singh


http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/riverlinking-will-be-disastrous-water-man/article7300522.ece


For the ‘Water man of India’ Rajendra Singh, who turned around life in the arid regions of Rajasthan with his inventive water conservation techniques involving the local communities, the steps taken by the Modi government in this sector have been disheartening. Prime among his concerns is the strong push by the government towards interlinking India’s rivers.

“This will be disastrous for my country. It will displace a lot of people and cause undesirable effects, with floods on one side and drought on the other. Rivers are not like roads. They have own gene pool and own life. What we need is the linking of our heart and brain with the river. This involves conservation projects involving the local communities. Linking of rivers will lead to privatisation of water resources,” he says. He was talking to The Hindu during his visit to the city to participate in a seminar on the revival of the Bharathapuzha on Tuesday.

Back in 2002, when the previous BJP government mooted the idea, he was the first one to study its after-effects, by travelling across the country to all rivers proposed to be linked. When the UPA government came, he presented his impact studies and the project was shelved, only to be revived under the Modi government.

“I have been a member of the National Ganga River Basin Authority from 2009. When the new government came, I was removed from it. They do not listen to the concerns we raise. No dissent is allowed under the Modi government,” says Mr. Singh.

Growing up in a Zamindari family in Uttar Pradesh, discussions with his teachers and farmers contributed to his understanding of life around him.

“But my father never gave me any liberty. When I completed my education, I joined government service and my father got me married. Three years went by and in 1984, when my wife went home to give birth to my son, I quit my job, caught a bus from Jaipur and took a ticket to the last stop.”

He landed in Kishori village, near Gopalpura, where he set up a small clinic. But, 72-year-old Mangu Meena, an elder of that village, told him that the village needs water, more than education and medicine.

“He showed me underground aquifers inside wells and taught me the methods to recharge such aquifers.”

He built water banks on the earth and check-dams to hold back water in the wet season, to recharge groundwater and thus retaining the water even in summer. He involved the communities living along these rivers, making them owners of the resources. Three decades later, the model has spread across Rajasthan and elsewhere, creating villages with surplus water even in summer. In 2001, he won the Magsaysay Award for community leadership. Earlier this year, he won the ‘Stockholm Water Prize’, known as the Nobel Prize for Water.

Riaz Haq said...

In #Pakistan's #coal rush, some #women drivers break cultural barriers. #Hindu #Thar #energy #Sindh

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-pakistan-women-drivers/in-pakistans-coal-rush-some-women-drivers-break-cultural-barriers-idUSKCN1C41PL

As Pakistan bets on cheap coal in the Thar desert to resolve its energy crisis, a select group of women is eyeing a road out of poverty by snapping up truck-driving jobs that once only went to men.

Such work is seen as life-changing in this dusty southern region bordering India, where sand dunes cover estimated coal reserves of 175 billion tonnes and yellow dumper trucks swarm like bees around Pakistan’s largest open-pit mine.

The imposing 60-tonne trucks initially daunted Gulaban, 25, a housewife and mother of three from Thar’s Hindu community inside the staunchly conservative and mainly-Muslim nation of 208 million people.

“At the beginning I was a bit nervous but now it’s normal to drive this dumper,” said Gulaban, clad in a pink saree, a traditional cloth worn by Hindu women across South Asia.

Gulaban - who hopes such jobs can help empower other women facing grim employment prospects - is among 30 women being trained to be truck drivers by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), a Pakistani firm digging up low-grade coal under the rolling Thar sand dunes.

Gulaban has stolen the march on her fellow trainees because she was the only woman who knew how to drive a car before training to be a truck driver. She is an inspiration to her fellow students.

“If Gulaban can drive a dump truck then why not we? All we need to do is learn and drive quickly like her,” said Ramu, 29, a mother of six, standing beside the 40-tonne truck.

Until recently, energy experts were uncertain that Pakistan’s abundant but poor-quality coal could be used to fire up power plants.

That view began to change with new technology and Chinese investment as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key branch of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative to connect Asia with Europe and Africa.

Now coal, along with hydro and liquefied natural gas, is at the heart of Pakistan’s energy plans.

SECMC, which has about 125 dump trucks ferrying earth out of the pit mine, estimates it will need 300-400 trucks once they burrow deep enough to reach the coal.


Drivers can earn up to 40,000 rupees ($380) a month.

Women aspiring to these jobs are overcoming cultural barriers in a society where women are restricted to mainly working the fields and cooking and cleaning for the family. Only this week in Saudi Arabia, a close ally of Pakistan, women were granted permission to drive for the first time ever, ending a ban that was supported by conservative clerics but seen by rights activists as an emblem of suppression.

Gulaban’s husband, Harjilal, recalled how people in Thar would taunt him when his “illiterate” wife drove their small car.



Riaz Haq said...

Kiran Sadhwani is the first Thari #Hindu #female engineer at #Thar #Coal Project in #Pakistan. #CPEC #Energy

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1521349/kiran-sadhwani-first-thari-female-engineer-thar-coal-project/


Sadhwani, who belong to the Lohana – a Hindu community – was the first girl in her community to study engineering or even to attend a university. Born into a middle class family in Mithi, she received her primary and intermediate education in her hometown and later went on to study at Mehran University of Engineering Technology.

Apart from her work, Sadhwani loves to volunteer. For the first time in the country’s history, when the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) launched its Female Dump Truck Driver Programme near the town of Islamkot in Thar, Sadhwani visited several villages to motivate women to apply for the job and empower themselves. “Not all women who are working as dumper drivers are poor or in dire need of money. It is just that they want to work and earn a living for themselves and improve the lives of their families,” she explained.

Sadhwani loves to play table tennis, read books and listen to music. In the future, she hopes to continue to work for Thar’s prosperity and development.

Out of 25 successful candidates, Sadhwani is the only female working at the site. “When I came for the final interview my father insisted I would have to commute every day as he wouldn’t allow me to live near the site where many other officers and workers live,” she said.

“I wanted to reside at the site so I could visit the mining site easily and learn in the field. I didn’t want to live in my comfort zone by just confining myself to office work so I persuaded my father to allow me to stay there,” she explained.

Sadhwani’s father, who then visited the site and met the officials at the site, allowed his daughter to live there. Now Sadhwani visits her home in Mithi every fortnight. “I was over the moon as I had got the opportunity and a platform to prove myself,” she said. In Tharparkar women are kept in their comfort zones and Kiran wanted to leave hers.

“Just like most parents, my parents also wanted me to study medical as engineering was too difficult a profession for a girl. It was the first challenge I faced but after continued efforts I succeeded in persuading them,” she explained. “I told them it’s not just medical or teaching professions where women can work and excel. It is actually their passion that leads to success,” Sadhwani said.

It is very important to change peoples’ mind-set, which is not an easy job in Thar, not even for the hundreds of non-governmental organisations working in the region.


Riaz Haq said...

Thar desert can be made lush green with saline water’

http://nation.com.pk/karachi/12-Sep-2017/thar-desert-can-be-made-lush-green-with-saline-water

Thar Desert can easily be converted into lush green grassland if it is irrigated with saline water, say researchers.

According to details, researchers at Institute of Sustainable Halophyte Utilization, University of Karachi have successfully developed a cropping system that can turn barren saline lands into sustainable croplands mainly for animal fodder and other important by-products like medicines and bio-fuels.

The fodder grass is a perennial sown once and can be continually harvested to about 63,000 kg per hectare per year without reseeding. ISHU inked a MoU with SECMC, for developing model cash crop cultivation farms in Thar Desert to grow green fodder on experimental basis.

Utilising brackish water in Thar will reduce pressure on fertile lands and sweet water resources. The crops were being watered by underground saline water pumped from a level of 180 metres from the pen-pit coal mine. Plantation of the fodder plant has been successfully started near Green Park at Thar Block II.

Thar is the largest desert of Pakistan and 9th Largest Desert Of the world. It is situated in the province of Sindh. The Thar area has a tropical desert climate. The rains play a vital role in the life of all parts of Thar because the underground water is rarely found in Thar desert. Most of the underground water is saline and undrinkable sometimes sweet water comes out of a very deeply dug well.

Director ISHU Prof Dr Bilquees Gul said that this bio-saline agriculture project with SECMC will play a vital role to take care of the local communities of Tharparker and nearby areas. She added that beyond traditional horticulture and agriculture, halophytes – salt-loving plant species – are cultivated in saltwater. These hardy plants, often already well adapted to desert conditions, are highly promising sources of fodder and bio energy feed stocks that can thrive in highly saline environments.

ISHU, KU team has been offered a land, near Green Park at Thar Block II. SECMC team shall provide water, land levelling tools, equipment shed and other items to start formal growing plants, she added.

Director ISHU said that proposed species of fodder can survive in local climate conditions. We have made significant progress in research on this subject and believe that if properly implemented, it could contribute significantly in rehabilitating saline land and providing fodder to arid areas like Thar have plenty of saline water resources.

The communities along the Tharparker are extremely poor and the introduction of this grass in that area would provide an economic uplift to local communities, she said. Tests on animals have shown no harmful effects and there was no problem convincing people to use it as fodder,” she said, adding that good management was required to grow the grass, which was probably the best fodder grass for the sub-tropical regions of the world as it can grow from coastal regions to inland regions. Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Muhammad Ajmal Khan has congratulated the researchers of ISHU for the research and said that the communities along the Tharparker are extremely poor and the introduction of this grass in that area would provide an economic uplift to local communities.

Riaz Haq said...

What has changed in Thar? Not much

What is unfolding in Tharparkar has all the signs of a humanitarian catastrophe. But the PPP-led provincial government has underplayed the crisis.

https://www.geo.tv/latest/161459-what-has-changed-in-thar-not-much


On paper, there are in total 390 health facilities in Thar, small and big, of which 288 are up and running – as 46 are under construction and 56 need to hire staff.

But on the ground, those figures are greatly exaggerated. At least 40 percent of these facilities are out of order, estimate residents Geo.tv spoke to.

Even if the building is there, enough doctors, nurses and medical practitioners are not available. The provincial government has yet to hire doctors to fill the 332 vacant posts in the district.

Health problems are further compounded by lack of water and other basic facilities.

Thar does not have a working irrigation system. People here are dependent on rainwater for drinking and other needs. Then, the prolonged season of dry weather, and less than normal rain, ravages the crops and food supply in the desert.

In 2016, in the drought-affected Thar, 479 children died due to malnutrition, according to the health department.

This year, in just the first three months, 82 children have already lost their lives. This data has been collected from the government hospitals. Local health experts insist that death in the far-flung areas of the district go unreported.

The figures of mortality are alarming. What is unfolding in Thar has all the signs of a humanitarian catastrophe. Yet, the provincial government, led by the Pakistan People’s Party, has underplayed the crises.

Officials have stopped providing media with updated figures of the death toll. In the past five months, the information flowing out of the district has been blocked.


Recently, Dr. Sikandar Ali Mandhro, Sindh’s Minister for Health, visited the area. When asked by a local journalist about the number of children who died this year, he was quoted as saying, “Children can die anywhere. Why does the media not report the children dying in other parts of Sindh, such as Badin or Hyderabad, why is it focused on Thar?”

He further asked reporters to compare the mortality rate to world figures, “The number in Thar is not so extraordinary.”

Mol Ram is a resident of the village Hilario in the desert. He is disappointed with the parliamentarians his people elected.

“They [the PPP] made many promises in 2013, but since then, since the polling day, we have barely seen them. Does only our vote matter?”

Riaz Haq said...

Coal Project Is Latest Sign of Growing Pakistan-China Relationship

https://www.voanews.com/a/coal-project-is-latest-sign-of-growing-pakistan-china-relationship/4125106.html

As the car speeds along gleaming blacktop highways in Pakistan's southern desert of Tharparkar, it is clear the new roads were not built to serve the poor herders and nomads who live in cone-shaped straw homes and subsist on herding sheep and cattle.

Indeed, a few decades ago, the Tharparkar desert in Sindh province bordering India was accessible only by crab-shaped vehicles that crawled over sand dunes by day and under star-studded skies at night, to reach the people of a forgotten century.

That changed as international feasibility studies sanctioned by Islamabad found that nearly half the desert covered coal. The turning point came as China offered to excavate and convert the fuel to help Pakistan cover its electricity shortfall of 25,000 megawatts.

So while the world turned away from coal to cleaner fuels, the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) began digging a layered, rectangular trough near the town of Islamkot.

Coal mine area

From above, the mining area looks like Pakistan's 5,000-year-old archaeological site, Moen Jo Daro (Mound of the Dead). But with Pakistani and Chinese flags fluttering side by side — and the hustle-bustle of dump trucks — the excavation clearly looks to the future.

Across the barren hills, the State Power International Mendong (SPIM) and China Machinery Engineering Corporation's power plants are poised to convert the coal to energy — reportedly 660 megawatts by the end of 2017.

Just outside the power plants sits a Chinese housing colony for the workers it has imported, a common practice for the country's foreign projects.

Partners in change

Meanwhile, Engro has a mandate from the Sindh government to ensure that the desert people, sitting atop the world's seventh-largest coal reserves, become willing partners in the transformation of their habitat.

Already, Engro has created "Khushal Thar" (Prosperous Thar), training 694 people on monthly stipends to be supplied to their Chinese partners.

Armed with a strategy for social change, Engro trains women as dump truck drivers. Recruiter Jehan Ara said the corporation, initially concerned about a backlash, first discussed the community's response to inducting women into an all-male profession, and only then made the positions official.


Interviewed in Islamkot, Marvi, 35, beamed at the prospect of driving dump trucks. Having six children was apparently no deterrent. Her husband, Ratan Lal, was on hand to cheer her, saying: "She is tough; she climbs trees to gather firewood and gets water from afar."

But the community has concerns that water from the mining process, discharged into Gorano village 28 kilometers away, could pollute drinking water sources. In Mithi town, people have repeatedly demonstrated to sound the alarm, with the fears echoed by Sindh's civil society.

For generations, the desert people have lived amid peacocks, sheep and camels. Engro plans to compensate and relocate them from their straw homes to model homes, fully equipped with schools and hospitals. Muslims and Hindus are to be resettled side by side, emblematic of the peaceful coexistence within the border community.