Coal imported for various projects, including a 1,320 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Sahiwal, is dumped in the open close to residential areas in Karachi, creating health and safety hazards, DawnNews reported on Tuesday.

Shipments of coal unloaded at Karachi Port Trust (KPT) are dumped at various stations inside KPT and on a tract of railway land along the main Mauripur Road. From here, it is loaded onto trains and transported to other cities, the report revealed.

The railway department has long used the Wazir Mansion Railway Station (situated on Mauripur Road) to transport coal to other parts of the country.

People living near Mauripur Road and the residents of Shireen Jinnah Colony in Clifton's Block 1 complain that the continued dumping of thousands of tonnes of coal is causing various health and environmental problems.

Residents of the area, especially children, are suffering from breathing problems and chest infections due to the coal dust entering their lungs via air.

"The dust causes a lot of diseases. Even the insides of house are blackened due to coal dust," a resident told DawnNews.

The labourers working at the dumping stations, too, are not following recommended safety guidelines, such as wearing safety masks and gloves while they handle the material.

Saquib Ejaz Hussain, an environmental specialist, told Dawn that coal dust can cause a range of health problems, including respiratory illness, cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer.

“Fine particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and are difficult for the body to expel. Over time, these particles accumulate and do more damage. Epidemiological research suggests that there is no threshold at which health effects do not occur,” he said.

According to him, experts recognised PM2.5 [particulate matter] from coal dust as a major air pollutant and health hazard. “People living far from the site are also at risk as large amounts of coal dust can be blown far and wide by the wind.”

Stockpiles of coal in hot weather conditions, he warned, are also prone to spontaneous combustion that can lead to serious conflagrations.

To read Dawn newspaper's detailed report from last year on the health and safety hazards posed by coal dumped in the open in Karachi, click here.