Development Boom in Pakistan's Thar Desert

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

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Comment by Riaz Haq on August 29, 2016 at 8:54pm

#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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 21, 2016 at 10:30am

#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

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 8, 2016 at 10:51am

#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... … 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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 22, 2017 at 8:26am

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

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-21/coal-addiction-s...

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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 30, 2017 at 10:34am

‘Pakistan uses supercritical technology for coal power generation’

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/201079-Pakistan-uses-supercritical...

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’.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 8, 2017 at 9:42pm

Rain showers Tharis with food security

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

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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 17, 2017 at 10:05am

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


http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/riverlinking...


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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 29, 2017 at 7:34am

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-pakista...

In Pakistan's coal rush, some women drivers break cultural barriers


Gulaban, a 25-year old mother of three, adjusts a fan before driving a 60-tonne truck, during a training session of the Female Dump Truck Driver Programme, introduced by the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), in Islamkot, Tharparkar, Pakistan September 21, 2017. Picture taken September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro



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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 4, 2017 at 2:22pm

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-fem...


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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 9, 2017 at 2:07pm

Thar desert can be made lush green with saline water’

http://nation.com.pk/karachi/12-Sep-2017/thar-desert-can-be-made-lu...

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.

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