Climate Change

Time To Shift From Carbon To Zero Carbon

Sahiwal Coal Power plant project named as Huaneng Shandong Ruyi (Pakistan) Energy (Limited) in Qadirabad is a mega coal power project which is a part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) program. The power plant is located about (12 mi) from Sahiwal and (9.3 mi) from Okara cantonment, just north of the road which connects the two towns, in Pakistan’s Punjab Province.  It was initiated to overcome the electricity shortage in Pakistan. China invested $1.912 billion on this particular project in collaboration with the Pakistani Government.

Pakistan has currently 4 working coal plant while 4 are under construction in different part of the country, all are under the project of CPEC. Coal is a major part of the generation mix. The year 2019-2020 saw 19% of the power generation in the country coming from just four coal-fired CPEC power plants. The 4.62 GW of CPEC funded coal-fired generation includes the 1,320 MW Huaneng Shandong Ruyi-Sahiwal Coal Power Plant, the 1,320 MW Port Qassim Coal Fired Power Plant, the 1,320 MW HubCo Coal fired power plant and the 660 MW Engro Thar Coal Power Plant which started supplying electricity to the national grid between 2017 and 2019.

In 2014, the population of qadariabad was 102,555 and now the population is decreased at 32,555. Why?

During the trailblazing of the Sahiwal Coal Power Project in 2014, Mr. Nawaz Sharif had told locals they will be rewarded according to their demands if they cooperate with them in this project but now the people and the farmers of the region tell a different story. The total land occupied by the project is 1012, acer and 7 marla. At what price Government purchased this land is still unfolding. The company claims that they purchase the land from government and have no idea how much government paid to the people.

“We own the land of our forefathers as farming is our occupation but in 2014 when government shows their will to purchase the land, we did not have any other option because they just wanna purchase at any coast. We had total 1 acer of land owned by me, my brothers and sons. Mr. Ishaq told his story.

“We left Qadarabad after that and purchased our houses in city, my sons are now in Karachi engaged in different business but I missed my land. Government never helped us in purchasing any land in alternative places or starting any business, even government promise the natives to provide clean water, schools and a small health dispensary, but all were just false claims, he further added.

The mega project is affecting life in the area by burning 16,667 tonne coal daily and throwing ashes and smoke into the air.  The report of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) conducted by the National Engineering Services Pakistan (Nespak) to assess the impacts of a 1,360MW coal power plant project on fertile agriculture land has suggested many steps including proper system of fuel wastage, 30,000 tree plantation with the hight of 6 to 7 feet ,compensation   for the farmers in form of agricultural land and compensation of crops too and the most important suggestion was to employ an environment expert in the company.

People who sale their land left Qadarbad, they did not get any compensation in form of land, some did buy land but on their own. Talking about the environmental effects, just wash a white cloth/shirt and put it on roop to dry in air, you will find a comparatively dark shirt after some hours, the air is that much polluted. Villagers say the power plant has impacted not only their health, but change the whole view of life once they were living. Their houses were sorrunded by green fields as far as the eye could see. They remember what it felt like to breathe fresh air. And they remember the sense of ownership they felt towards their land.

Tim Flannery in” Atmosphere of hope” (2015) said, “In northern China, air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels, principally coal, is causing people to die on an average of 5.5 years sooner than they otherwise might.”

“We are using latest technology in coal power plant which is called Super Critical technology”. They used imported coal from South Africa, because the burning quality of Pakistani coal is not good and this coal first landed by ships on Karachi port and a special rail lane used to transport this coal to Sahiwal coal power plant. Chine’s workers told

While experts claim that the coal used in the plant is of the worst in quality, known as ‘lignite-based coal’ with a calorific value of less than 3000 kcal. It takes 1 kg of coal to make 1 unit of electricity while normal coal, as imported and used in Sahiwal power plant, used just 0.4 kg per unit of electricity. That means that the amount of smoke produced by coal power plant is 2.5 times of Sahiwal coal power plant for each unit. Hence the output is not satisfactory and hence leaves very little for labor economical share.

The levels of various environmental contaminants in the ambient atmosphere such as toxic gases, including Sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide and (ultra)fine particulate matter, is significantly increased than their previous(acceptable) levels in the air, an environmentalist from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad added.

At the Climate Ambitions Summit held in December 2020 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, Prime Minister Imran Khan made three commitments that Pakistan will

a) generate 60pc of her energy from renewable resources,

b) ensure that 30pc of vehicles in the country will be electric vehicles (EV)

c) not pursue coal plants and there will be no coal power plants in Pakistan.

In August 2020, the Pakistan government formally approved the Alternative and Renewable Energy Policy 2019. The new policy aims to boost the share of electricity generated from renewable sources from around 5 per cent at present to 20 per cent by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030.

Just a few weeks ahead of COP26, China, the world’s biggest public financier of coal, announced that it will end investments in overseas coal projects. It raised hope in countries that want to make low-carbon energy plans and panic among those who feel they cannot do without coal.

“We believe green is the way to go,” Asad Umar, Pakistan’s federal minister for planning, development and special initiatives said. “We have always been very critical of the imported coal plants that we inherited from the previous government,”

Pakistan has the hottest place on the earth that means it is largely facing the adverse effects of climate change without having any kind of role in the emission of greenhouse gases. Pakistan is a country that has really shifted its direction and it has shown to the world that what can be done if you have the right vision about climate change,” Pakistan has shut down two coal-powered power plants having a capacity of 2,400 megawatts and initiated hydel power plants that will generate 3,700 megawatts of electricity,” he added “The world must come up with nature-based solutions and it should also provide funds to those developing countries like Pakistan that are being affected by negative impacts of the climate change. “he further added.

 Why Coal power plant needs agricultural land?

“It’s an environmental disaster as coal has negative consequences on air quality, is a water-intensive technology and it could affect the fertility of agriculture plains, and most importantly, exacerbate climate change,” experts say.

They insist the project makes little business sense. “How could you allow a coal power plant to be constructed in an agriculture zone, where there are no coal reserves?” they question. “Such projects need to be investigated as these so-called ‘assets will become liabilities due to high operational, maintenance and environmental costs and must not be allowed in the future.”

Science is clear on the fact that coal is exacerbating climate change which leads to catastrophic weather events such as glacial lake, outburst floods, cyclones and sea intrusion.

“Patience’s numbers have increased in last seven years, with chest infections, asthma, dry cough and with lungs problems and surely reason is the coal plant because the smoke come out from plant is negatively effecting the environment of Sahiwal division. Lahore ranked top city in the world in smog. Abrar Ahmad, said.

“Once I was travelling from Lahore to Sahiwal in the public transport, a villager was on call and was having worst cough, during his call he said that after the plantation of this coal plant , we resident of Qadarbad facing the worst chest infections and worst air condition, Our Children are suffering badly . I am the witness too” he further added

While China is moving away from coal-fired plants, it readily agreed to transfer this technology to Pakistan.  China is now using the natural resource to produce several useful products that include; SNG, urea, anhydrous ammonia, crude cresylic acid, phenol, diesel, naphtha, tar oil and so on. Burning of coal in the 21st century is a sin.

In the present ‘Smog Crisis ‘, coal-fired power plants have been shut down around New Delhi while the Sahiwal plant continues to pollute the air of Lahore. Immediate action is needed, first to shut down the plant and then move it to. This plant and the Orange Train of Lahore both funded through CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor). Considering the poor air quality of Lahore and south Punjab. Now Punjab government has   shut down the schools for extended weekends (Saturday, Sunday, Monday). This is on top of the Covid break that has caused major disruption in the field of academics. The slogan being;” Coal with no environmental toll “.

Muhammad Badar-ul-Munir, the chief executive of the 100 MW Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power Pvt Ltd (QASPL) plant, said” the worst environmental condition in the country   may force the government of Pakistan to focus on the much-ignored area of solar power.

Environmental experts have to be involved to look at all the possible options together with implementation which has always been the missing link in Pakistan, but in the meantime let’s shut down the Sahiwal Coal Power plant for immediate relief to the suffering people of Lahore and Sahiwal. Currently there is excess of power generation and shortage of clean air to breathe. Let’s give a break to our respiratory system before it collapses resulting in another pandemic for which we are not prepared. Government should focus of green energy initiatives and zero carbon projects. People do not have heath facilities in these small towns, cutting green fields create more  health issues for them. Clean water is another big issue due to which people are suffering with hepatitis .C, malaria and typhoid but these coal power plants are the biggest plus source in polluting the water.

Pakistan has a tremendous opportunity to cost-effectively tap its abundant solar, wind and hydropower resource potential. The shift to renewables will have multiple benefits for Pakistan, including reduced cost of electricity and improved energy access and energy independence.

It will also create opportunities to establish new industries in the renewable energy supply chain and develop human capital through job creation, with the added benefit of greater resilience against the impacts of climate change and a healthier work force through reduced pollution.

Saddia Mazhar

Saddia Mazhar, an accomplished Investigative Journalist hailing from District Sahiwal, Punjab, possesses a fervor for unveiling impactful narratives. With a demonstrated history of hosting radio shows, web TV programs, contributing to esteemed publications, and steering digital media platforms, she stands as a notable figure in the field. Connect with her on Twitter @SaddiaMazhar. She can be contacted at
Back to top button