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May 16, 2020

PFF demands replacing coal with renewables for power generation

The Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum on Friday demanded that the government stop power generation through dirty fuels, such as coal, and instead invest in the development of renewable and alternative energy resources like wind and garbage.

PFF Chairman Muhammad Ali Shah, while addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club, said various researches by environment and climate change experts had indicated that power generation through coal would have a negative impact on human lives and it would destroy the environment and ecology of the area.

PFF Secretary-General Saeed Baloch and Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) representative Shujauddin Qureshi accompanied him.

Shah demanded that the federal government under the Alternative Renewable Energy Policy 2019 should initiate environment-friendly projects. In the forthcoming budget 2020-21, the government should not allocate any funds for power general through fossil fuels; instead, the government should allocate funds for renewable energy generation, he said.

A large number of people had been displaced due to the development of coalmines and power generation units, but they were not provided proper compensation for their lands and houses, he said, adding that the grazing points for animals had been destroyed.

Shah further demanded of the government to pay proper compensation to the affected villagers and allocate land for animals to graze on, he added

He pointed out that the government was currently installing coal-fired power plants in various parts of the country, including the Tharparkar district and the coastal districts of Karachi, Lasbela and Gwadar. “It poses a great danger to the ecology and health of human beings living in the coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan” the PFF leader said.

Experts had also indicated that these coal power plants would destroy the fishing sector, which was the livelihood source of millions of fishermen living along the coastal areas, he said, adding that the main affected people would be in the Thar desert where the government had initiated a number of projects of coal mining and power generation.

A total of nine power plants with a total capacity of 3.7 gigawatts are proposed in Thar, which would constitute one of the largest air pollutant, mercury and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions hotspots in South Asia, he said.

Shah, citing several researches, said that the poisonous emissions from the plants and mines would pose a great danger to the health of hundreds of thousands of people near these power plants in Thar.

The coal power plants would emit an estimated 1400 kilograms of mercury per year, of which one-fifth would be deposited into land ecosystems in the region, he said adding that most of the deposition took place onto cropland, increasing the mercury concentrations in crops. The levels of mercury deposition are potentially dangerous in an area with 100,000 inhabitants.

The other health impacts due to coal mining and power generation include 40,000 asthma emergency room visits, 19,906 new cases of asthma in children, 32,000 premature births, 20 million days of work absence (sick leave) and 57,000 years lived with disability related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and stroke, he said, citing the statistics by a research.

The coal mining and power plants would create a water shortage as these activities would destroy underground aquifers. For the next few years, the coal mining in Thar would require 4,000 billion gallons of water and for generation of 10 Gegawatt power 8,500 billion gallons of water would be consumed. This would create an acute shortage of water in the Thar desert, which was already facing droughts, he said.

Shah said that earlier a meagre quantity of power was being generated through coal, but now its share in the country’s power generation capacity was over 30 per cent.