‘Benefits of Sindh’s Rs11bn investment in coal sector set to trickle down to masses’

MITHI: Joining in the celebration of the completion of 50 per cent work of the Thar coal power generation project, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah attributed the progress to the vision of slain prime minister and chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Benazir Bhutto while speaking to the audience at a ceremony held at the block-II site of the project in Tharparkar on Tuesday.

“The Sindh government had invested Rs11 billion in the project and now the people of Pakistan, particularly Sindh, are set to reap its fruit,” he said.

He recalled that Ms Bhutto during her second tenure as the prime minister had invited international investors and experts for the mining and coal-powered project in this region of downtrodden people with a view to install 10,000MW plants. He said his father, the late Syed Abdullah Shah, was the chief minister at that time (1994). The chief minister regretted an inordinate delay in getting the project materialised but blamed Nawaz Sharif, the recently ousted prime minister and president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for it, saying that he had scrapped the project, thus pushing the whole country into darkness and bringing industrial development across the country to a halt on account of the power crisis.

Mr Sharif’s act also led to an upward trend in unemployment and poverty, he added.

Mr Shah claimed that due to the policy pursued by the Nawaz-led government not only the Thar coal project was wound up, it also caused annoyance to international investors to the extent that none of them were ready to opt for investment in the coal sector or Thar.

“When the PPP came to power in 2008, its co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari took the initiative of reviving the project and asked the then chief minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, and the Sindh government to help materialise the dream of Benazir Bhutto. He said Sindh was left by the federal government with no other option but to make investment in the sector on its own. Eventually, he said, the Sindh government in partnership with the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) invested Rs11bn in the project.

He alleged that the Nawaz-led government continued to resist the execution of the project until 2013. Even Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif were at one stage brought together with a view to convince the latter on federal assistance for the project in the greater interest of the country and its people but all in vain, he said.

CM Shah expressed his gratitude to former PPP prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf for extending sovereign guarantee for the coal project during his tenure.

He realised that a large number of villagers were affected by the project, and observed that the same lot, along with millions of other citizens, would soon be reaping the fruits and the benefits would be much more than what they would have lost. He said the Sindh government’s only aim was to take the country out of the power crisis and bring about prosperity.

“I realised that the villagers had to surrender their ancestral abodes and religious places but they are going to get an unending compensation,” he said, and announced three per cent shares of the project out of the Sindh government’s share. He again urged the federal government to extend its assistance to the project in order to overcome the national power crisis.

The chief minister also announced handing over of the management of all government schools situated in Islamkot to the Thar Foundation, being run by the Engro Energy & Mining Company (EEMC). He asked Minister for Education Jam Khan Shoro to evolve a mechanism for the transfer of the managements.

Women truckers

Mr Shah also came across women truck drivers employed by the mining company in its transport section. “It really gives me immense pleasure that the Thari women have willingly accepted the job … they appear more courageous than their male family members,” he observed. The CM also had a ride in a truck driven by a Thari woman. She took a round of different areas of the project site to demonstrate her skills.

Mr Shah noted that as many as 35 women truck drivers were employed and eight of them had already completed the training and were handling the job.

Earlier, the CM held out the assurance that people of Gorano and Dukarcho villages affected by the Gorano saline water reservoir would also get suitable compensation under a package to be stretched over a period of 30 years.

In reply to questions posed by people around him, the chief minister said: “The project will start generating electricity in June 2019”.

He said that around 1,700 affected families were being provided alternative residence with all basic facilities, quality education for their children, standard healthcare services, safe drinking water and sanitation services. A mosque and a temple were being built for them, he added. He said each of the families affected by the project’s block-II would receive at least Rs100,000 shares each year and the amount would keep increasing.

SECMC chief operating officer Shamsud­din Ahmad Shaikh speaking at the ceremony presented a detailed preview of the gigantic power project.

He said a modern and fully equipped 150-bed hospital was being set up by the company in Islamkot while three secondary schools — one each in Islamkot, Mithi and the resettlement area — were also being established. He said three new primary schools had started functioning in the villages of the block-II site.

Courtesy By: https://dawn.com/

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