KARACHI: The air pollutant emissions from a massive cluster of coal mines and power plants in Thar would cause alarming levels of toxic depositions in the region and expose local population to serious health risks, reveals a study launched on Friday.
Over an operating period of 30 years, the emissions would be responsible for 29,000 air pollution-related deaths, 40,000 asthma emergency room visits, 19,906 new cases of asthma in children, 32,000 preterm births, 20 million days of work absence (sick leaves) and 57,000 years lived with disability related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and stroke.
The study titled ‘Air quality, health and Toxics Impacts of the Proposed Coal Mining and Power Cluster in Thar, Pakistan’ has been conducted by Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA). The launching of the report was held at online video conferencing software Zoom.
“Since Pakistan is already suffering from air pollution levels that are among the highest in the world, the emissions induced by coal mines and power plants of Thar will further reduce life expectancy in the country and increase the vulnerability of its citizens to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, Lead Analyst of CREA, while speaking at an online launching ceremony of the study organized by Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy (ACJCE).
The Thar emissions would constitute one of the largest hotspots of mercury and carbon dioxide in South Asia, he said. The coal power plants would emit an estimated 1,400 kg of mercury per year, of which one fifth would be deposited into land ecosystems in the region, he added.
Most of the deposition would take place onto cropland and increase the mercury concentrations in crops, said the lead analyst while terming the levels of mercury deposition as potentially dangerous in an area with 100,000 inhabitants.
The study also points out errors and omissions in the data used in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA ) reports of two coal power projects in Block-II and one in Block-VI as well as violations of Sindh Ambient Air Quality Standards and guidelines of World Health Organization (WHO) and IFC.
“Given the actual incidences of legal non-compliance and misreporting involved in social and environmental impact assessments, land surveys, land acquisition and compensation and the monitoring processes, what the study reveals is just a proverbial iceberg of the misleading public through data maneuvering, said Advocate Zubair Ahmad Abro of Alternative Law Collective.
Muhammad Ali Shah, chairman of Pakistan Fisher-folk Form (PFF), said that the plants will have an adverse impact on the indigenous people’s health and safety, livelihoods, homes, food production systems, water, environment and ecology.
The local communities of Thar were already suffering from forced displacement, encroachment on common grazing land, livelihood losses, water stress and air pollution, induced by coal power project, in Thar. To end the sufferings of Thari people, he demanded the government to adopt renewable energy projects and stop mining and import of coal for power generation.
Environmentalist professionals, journalists, members of the civil society, lawyers and rights activists attended the live video conference.