By Syed Areeb Uddin

My recent visit to Tharparkar revealed great tragedies and wonders of my home land. I was more shocked than amazed at the propensity of resources that Tharparkar alone holds and have been wondering in calculation to how much can the country actually benefit from these resources.

Starting from the Thar Coal Project that one of the engineers and project workers at the site of the Sindh Thar Coal Development Authority briefed me about (revealed) a total area of 9100 sq. km that contains 9.75 billion tons of coal. Thar coal has Lignite, bituminous coal up to 45-60%, 20% carbon and remaining very few impurities.

Apart from financial benefits that coal may provide, there are numerous other resourceful utalizations after refining it as it releases effective fertilizers. It is also studied that the coal deposits of the area have a very large content of water, around 40 per cent which is a big relief to the local population. A lot of people who live and make a living in this area, claim that the resources found here including the Thar coal can make Pakistan stand exactly next to Saudi Arabia and Iran in the field of energy while the reserves are 42 times greater than gas reserves.

The energy mix in of Pakistan shows only 9 per cent utilization of coal out of which only 0.1 per cent is used for power generation. In a comparison with other countries, Pakistan lags behind to a considerable degree. It is seen that coal is responsible for 72 per cent of China’s power needs, 56 per cent of Indian needs, where as the US utilizes more than 50 per cent of coal in its power generation. Globally, the share of coal in power generation is 38 per cent, compared to 0.1 percent in Pakistan.

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Pakistan has been blessed with huge lignite coal reserves, and it is of immense importance that the same be included in the energy mix of Pakistan. If we only take the cumulative savings into account, due to devaluation of the Pakistani currency and fluctuations in oil prices, the fuel replacement from oil to coal will save Pakistan $87 billion from one block of the Thar Coal fields alone till 2070. Cambridge Energy Research Associates estimates the Net Present Value of savings at Rs. 3.2 trillion over a period of 60 years. With these savings in view, the trade-off between environment and economy seems to be a viable option.

Researches show that the contribution to GDP in plants, products, services, employment, etc. would be in the range of $200 – $300 billion, which clearly exceeds the total GDP of Pakistan.

The officers  at the sight told that this site was discovered back in '89 and fully realized in '92 yet authorities are either unaware or not mindful enough of this great facility. It’s been revealed that Engro and a U.S based company are the one's working there at present. I queried if there is any hindrance in progress of this project that could make Pakistan too privileged – great game oil lobby, Kalabagh dam and other such things were in the response.

Apart from that, financial issues were said to be a main barrier, the absence of costly digging materials has hampered the efficiency and effectiveness of the work process. Also the workers complained about the lack of proper training and advised that it would be too good if they were trained by the manufacturers of the machinery and experienced staff of this field.

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Government authorities should concentrate their attention to this project by bringing in the cash. It will also need to focus its attention for training technicians and the respective staff. Plus the project must not go in the hands of foreign or private investors rather the Pakistan government should have its hands strong on it so that no situation may rise in which the energy or product may escape the nation and benefit others leaving nothing behind.

Today, all the great nations that stand tall have foundations that were once set on coal. It is about time that Pakistan realizes it’s potential and builds for itself the same foundations, instead of continually standing on the crutches of international aid.

As I proceeded further to Nagarparkar on my trip, great picturesque places went past, which actually astonished me as I had never heard of them and never saw them over the t.v on public or private channels. Karoonjhar Jabal and many historical monuments were of immense beauty which, if promoted, could bring too much of visitors, foreign investors, tourists resulting in enhancement of the economic sector. Many such sites remain unknown because of the reason that it has not been long that the roads are constructed via which people can access these places as these areas are completely deserts. Proper promotion and infrastructural development can craft them as eye catching for even international tourists!

Syed Areeb Uddin from Karachi is enrolled in the first year of Bachelors in Dental Surgery from Zia Uddin University – Karachi. He takes keen interest in national and international politics. He has written about many domestic critical issues and social problems suggesting possible and simple solutions. Areeb writings have been published in the Dawn, Daily times, The News and many other news papers including many youth magazines.

In lieu of his trilingual's he can speak Sindhi, Urdu and English. Areeb is engaged in translating books from Sindhi to English dialect specifically of a late author who wrote more than 400 books and is a renowned Islamic scholar and spiritual guide Makhdoom Muhammad Hashim Thattvi. He is also the 5th descendant of the great Saint.

Areeb is also fond of writing short poetry especially in Sindhi – He believes them to be inherited skills as descending from a mystic Sindhi poet and writer Allah Baksh Sarshar Uqaili.