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Concerns over environmental hazards of coal power project

July 05, 2014

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SAHIWAL: A hoarding on Lahore-Multan Road reminds commuters that Sahiwal is home to fine breed buffalos and cows. There is a concern among livestock breeders here to what extent the coal plant emissions are going to affect their animals.—Dawn
SAHIWAL: A hoarding on Lahore-Multan Road reminds commuters that Sahiwal is home to fine breed buffalos and cows. There is a concern among livestock breeders here to what extent the coal plant emissions are going to affect their animals.—Dawn

SAHIWAL: People living around the recently launched coal power project in Sahiwal have expressed concerns over its possible environmental hazards.

The mega project will affect life in the area by burning 16,667 tonne coal daily and throwing ashes and smoke into the air. However, 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 not been made public. It is the responsibility of the Punjab Energy Department to share environmental impacts of the project.

Nespak had conducted the EIA in March 2014 but none of its findings were made public or shared with the stakeholders. The purpose of the EIA study was to identify the impacts of the power plant on the environment and propose mitigation measures against the possible adverse effects.

Before installation of any power plant, the Provincial Energy Department has to seek EIA report and a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Environment Protection Department (EPD).

It is learnt the EPD has not issued the NOC because it has to monitor and regulate air emissions and effluent of coal power plant under the guidelines provided under the National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) for Ambiet Air 2010 before issuing any such certificate.

SAHIWAL: Dwellers of village 76/5-R near Qadirabad, where the plant is being set up, will be the most affected from coal power plant emissions. —Dawn
SAHIWAL: Dwellers of village 76/5-R near Qadirabad, where the plant is being set up, will be the most affected from coal power plant emissions. —Dawn

It is interesting to note the NEQS standards are available at the national level but no local scientific study was done for establishing the baseline of these standards. Till date, no public or private agency has done any baseline study of the Sahiwal region to show the prevalent ratio of different elements in the air, including sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matters (PM 10 & PM 2.5), having size of 2.5 to 10 micrometers, 25 to 200 times thinner than human hair, carbon dioxide, ozone and lead.

Dr Nabeel Niazi, an environmentalist from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, said 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, would significantly increase than their current (acceptable) levels in the air.

“The concentrations of various heavy metals/metalloids, including lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, will ingress in the surrounding atmosphere,” Dr Niazi added.

Dawn learnt that before the ceremony on May 30 in which the prime minister inaugurated the project, the EPD held a public hearing at the Qadirabad Semen Production Centre but only those villagers were called whose land was being purchased for power plant. Not a single media person or other local stakeholders were called to the meeting.

Mohsin Aftab, a resident of Village 76/5-R, Qadirabad, who attended one of public hearings, said that the smoke of plant would spread over a radius of 10km.

Naeem Naqvi, a political worker, says locals must be taken on board regarding the plant as they had the right to know how the plant would affect the surrounding environment.

The locals and their representatives have expressed reservations about the effect of the plant on their health.

This correspondent talked to many citizens who said the government must hold consultations with stakeholders on environmental impact of the coal power plant. They said their representatives should raise the issue at national and provincial assembly forums.

Published in Dawn, July 5th , 2014