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MITHI: A large number of officers and workers of the underground coal gasification (UCG) project took out a rally here on Tuesday outside Thar Press Club and at the plant site in the village of Bhabanio Bheel near Islamkot town in protest against non-payment of salaries for the past three months.

Leaders of the protesters told local journalists that it was due to an indifferent attitude of the high-ups of the Sindh energy department that over 450 workers (85 per cent from Thar) related with the UCG mega project were facing hardships.

Dr Manik Lal, Raja Gohar, Dileep Kumar, Abdul Manan Larik and other leaders alleged that the government of Sindh altogether disowned the project despite the fact that manpower had been hired through proper advertisement and test/interviews after a board was constituted by the energy department for execution of the plan.

Chief of the mega project, Dr Samar Mubarakmand, had written several letters to the energy department authorities regarding suspension of the project development funds, but in vain, they said

“In his final letter, he stated that it is not possible for the project management to continue the project under these circumstances, hence the energy department may nominate their representatives to take over assets/machinery worth billions of rupees or arrange sufficient funds to sustain the project,” they added.

The protesting employees of Thar were of the view that at this point of time when their region was facing a severe drought this year too and their children were dying from malnutrition, stoppage of their wages by the government of Sindh was a criminal act.

“The vision of Thar coal belongs to Sindh as actually this is the project of the Sindh energy department being funded by the federal government under the ministry of planning, development and reforms and Planning Commission (PC),” they added.

The mega project was launched in 2009 for producing gas from coal reserves on experimental basis and it successfully achieved the target in 2011 within two years.

Thereafter, a project for 100MW was approved to generate electricity through the UCG costing Rs9 billion while so far only 33per cent of the allocated funds have been released. “The UCG project is now able to generate 8MW electricity through coal gas, but the federal and provincial governments neither purchase power from it nor [are they] releasing funds to run the project,” they said.

They demanded appropriate measures to save the around Rs4bn worth project built from taxpayer money and future of the 450 workers posted at this project for the past eight years.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2018