THIS is with reference to the article ‘Life under the shadow of a coal-fired power plant’ (Eos, Dec 15). The Sahiwal power plant always abides by the strictest standards in the whole process of construction and operation and ensures all work is conducted in compliance with laws and regulations. Was the local population’s health damaged by the plant?
To find out the truth, company employees went to the village concerned. The villagers unanimously rejected the accusations made in the article. Dr Allah Ditta, the only doctor in the village, rejected the purported health effects in the article. He said: “Nobody got ill or sick due to Sahiwal power plant and the accusations are baseless,” The lady mentioned in the article got the breathing problem 10 years ago, which was before the power plant was built, and so is the case with other people suffering health problems.
The tap water in the village already had some problems before the erection of the power plant. Mr Israr, who was mentioned in the article, said that he and his mother had no problem owing to the power plant. In fact, he was very grateful that electricity could be available 24/7 nowadays and many people of his village got jobs at the power plant. The plant management couldn’t meet Mr Siddique since he was in another city. We will meet him and invite him to the plant when he comes back.
Is the plant polluting air, water and crops? The reality is quite the opposite, because the company has placed the highest priority on environmental protection. The world’s most advanced environmental protection equipment such as FGD, ESP, Low NOx Burners, etc. have been put into operation simultaneously with the generation units, and they are all run by local employees. The emissions of the power plant are maintained well below the design value and far superior to World Bank standards.
To ensure the accuracy and fairness of the emission data, EPA-certified third party environmental monitoring agencies are engaged to monitor the quality of air, water and soil. Meanwhile, a number of monitoring stations have been set up in the vicinity to monitor the air quality to ensure that it has no adverse effect on the crops or orchards of the surrounding villages. The allegation that the floodlights destroyed the crops is totally in conflict with biological and physical theories.
With the installation of state-of-the-art environmental protection equipment, a high-standard management, and the plantation of more than 60,000 trees and 140,000 square metres’ turfs, the Sahiwal power plant is a true example of environmental friendly project. That is why it won the annual environment excellence award of National Forum for Environment and Health of Pakistan in 2019.
Is the plant over-pumping and wasting water? According to the world’s common practice of power construction, the site selection of a power plant should be at the load centre. Sahiwal power plant is at this centre with three major power-consuming cities in its vicinity i.e. Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan. The water used for power production is primarily sourced from the Lower Bari Doab Canal and the plant pays for it. Only a small quantity of ground water is pumped, which is mainly for potable and domestic use. The fluctuation of ground water level is usually caused by the variation of precipitation and water level of the canal nearby but not by the power plant.
Zero emission of waste water has been realized in the Sahiwal power plant through comprehensive treatment by the decentralised waste water treatment facilities. The ground water samples tested by the EPA-certified third party found no pollution. As per the data of water survey, the amount of arsenic and other salts in ground water remains the same as before and after the operation of this power plant.
What has the company done for Pakistani society? To date, the Sahiwal power plant has produced more than 21.2 billion kilowatt-hours of cheap and clean energy, which has filled a quarter of power shortfall in Pakistan and meets the electricity demand of more than four million typical households.
As a long-term social contribution plan, a technical training school was built and run by the company to provide free education and technical training to locals. Till now, three batches of technical and language training have been conducted, and 100 unskilled young people have become skilled worker. The company welcomes people from all walks of life to visit the Sahiwal power plant any time to personally experience its garden-like environment, check the state-of-the-art equipment and clean production. Somebody once posted on twitter: “it’s very beautiful, but I don’t think it’s in Sahiwal”. Yes, it is Sahiwal.
Sahiwal Power Plant
Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2019