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December 7, 2018

Two-week caravan against coal power plants announced

Karachi

December 7, 2018

Underlining the need for forming an alliance to resist the use of coal for power generation in the country, fishermen bodies and civil society organisations have announced to hold a march, named ‘Anti-Thar Coal People’s Caravan’, in February next year.

The announcement was made at a seminar organised by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) at a local hotel on Wednesday. Speakers at the seminar said the march would start in Islamkot town in Tharparkar district, span two weeks and comprise local residents of Thar who would travel on foot in the desert region to protest against and create awareness about threats of coal power plants to environment and biodiversity.

The speakers, including representatives of civil society, labour unions and communities affected by coal mining and coal power plants, expressed concern over degradation of environment and violations of rights of local people, including the right to livelihood. They demanded that the government protect rights of local population and stressed the need for producing energy from alternative sources like wind and solar power.

PFF Chairman Muhammad Ali Shah said the planned caravan would pass through various cities, towns and villages in lower Sindh. Starting from Tharparkar district, the caravan would pass through Umerkot, Sanghar, Nawabshah, Matiari, Hyderabad, Tando Muhammad Khan, Badin, Thatta and Karachi. Shah briefed the seminar on various threats posed by coal power plants to environment and biodiversity. Sindh is more prone to climate change due to its geographical location as compared to other provinces, he said.

The PFF chairman pointed out that two major power plants being constructed in Port Qasim were a major threat to the local environment. Work started on the two 660 megawatt supercritical coal power plants in May 2015, he said, adding that the projects would run on imported coal for which a separate terminal was constructed at Port Qasim.

Gul Hassan Kalmatti, a historian and a social activist, said a private transport company, which had undertaken the transport of imported coal from Port Qasim to various parts of Punjab, was violating the rules, posing the environmental threat to the local community as it had been dumping coal illegally at a site beside Railway Colony near Gaghar Phatak.

Environmental expert Nasir Panhwar said coal combustion spews out a toxic brew of large quantities of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, mercury and other pollutants. If coal burns underground, it produces carbon dioxide, methane, mercury and at least 40 toxic compounds that can escape through the soil and aquifers, he added.

He also explained the devastating impacts of coal mining on the heath of local communities and environment. Transportation of coal to different cities of the county from ports is affecting the communities living in the surrounding areas as they have to suffer coal dust, he said, adding that transportation and dumping of coal in the absence of any measures had badly affected the areas and the locality of Bin Qasim remained covered in a blanket of coal dust.

Other speakers included senior journalist Sohail Sangi, PILER Manager Shujauddin Qureshi, Naimatullah, Bheem Raj, Chandan Malhi from the National Commission for Human Rights, Ahsan from NED University, Rafiq from the Karachi Port Trust and others.

A resolution was passed at the end of the seminar which demanded that all the coal power plants in Pakistan be closed down and power be generated through renewable energy sources.

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