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Dirty electricity

Published Nov 28, 2010 12:52am

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WE now know that Karkey Karadeniz Elektrik Uretin (KKEU), a Turkish power company, has anchored a barge-mounted power station in the Korangi Creek, connecting it to KESC’s thermal powerhouse transmission lines to deliver 220MW into the starved electricity network (the powerless awam expect much from the bijli ka jehaz). At the inauguration ceremony of this furnace oil-guzzling smoke-belching mini-monster, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, our ‘knowledgeable’ minister for water and power, informed us that the “ship-borne system is a state-of-the-art power plant to provide electricity to Karachi”.

He is only partly right: although the barge has been rented for five years by Lakhra Power Generation Company (GENCO-IV) and its electricity is being ‘wheeled’ into the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC)/Pepco’s nationwide system, its output will be utilised by the KESC as a low-loss part of the 650MW supply to be provided by Wapda. With proper relaying, this output will remain available to KESC even if the inter-tie to Wapda drops off.

On Nov 24, this newspaper reported that KESC will pay some Rs9/kWh to Wapda/NTDC, with KKEU’s sale price to Wapda/NTDC being around Rs16/kWh. In its January 2010 rental power review report, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) found “the Rental Service Agreements (i) are weak in their legal structure; (ii) do not balance the risk sharing between the seller and buyer; and (iii) have many inconsistencies”. It also calculated that KKEU had the highest cost among the 12 furnace-oil rental power plants reviewed.

What Raja Pervaiz Ashraf did not mention was that the barge will horrendously pollute the habitations, air and sea around Karachi.

In mid-March 2010, my advisor on environmental engineering affairs, Shehri’s Roland deSouza, attended a public hearing held by the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report submitted by KKEU and emerged sceptical.

This report essentially stated that whatever environmental problems emerged during the operation would be studied/tackled by KKEU as they occurred. This is unbelievable. If such a procedure is to be accepted for scrutiny by EIAs, then Sepa’s NOCs and public hearings are meaningless.

As per Section 9 of the Review of IEE & EIA Regulations 2000, Sepa must conduct a “preliminary scrutiny” to confirm that the EIA is complete for purposes of initiation of the review. It obviously was not. Had it been, the agency should have insisted that all environmental issues be assessed in detail, technical studies and accurate analyses be conducted, and detailed mitigation measures finalised in advance.

For instance, without engineering studies, KKEU vaguely stated that plant noise would be tackled with acoustic enclosures only “if the noise levels exceed the National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) guideline values”. An unrealistic figure of 85dB(A) was quoted as the standard, although residential areas (e.g., Ibrahim Hyderi Goth) should not be subjected to more than 45dB(A) of sound at night.

Further, KKEU loosely promised that seawater temperature-rise thermal-plume modelling of their once-through cooling-system would be undertaken “in case the temperature difference is found to be beyond the NEQS”.

The NEQS prohibit the discharge into the sea of any effluent (without regard to concentration of pollutants or temperature-rise) within 10 miles of the mangroves (in Korangi Creek). ADB reported in 2006 that the average temperature rise of the sea cooling water at KESC’s Korangi power-house was 7Ú°C (exceeding the maximum 3Ú°C allowable). Excessive heat from the KKEU barge will exacerbate this situation, and further adversely affect marine life and the livelihood of fishermen in adjacent goths.

No details were provided of the complex treatment/disposal required for the contaminated wastewater generated from washing the furnace-oil or from other hazardous chemicals. (Polluters in Pakistan tend to isolate themselves from this process by using sub-contractors who, after bribing officials, remove contaminated waste for remote dumping.)

With the burning of dirty furnace oil, bereft of de-sulphurisation equipment, increase in air-pollution is a major concern in the already degraded air shed around the KESC power house. The coloured contour maps generated by KKEU’s air-dispersion modelling fraudulently show the prevailing wind as coming from the northwest rather than the southwest.

Thus, the deposition of pollutants from the barge is stated to be over the Korangi Creek rather than onshore onto the thickly populated areas of Ibrahim Haidery Goth and Korangi Township.

The EIA report states that the alternative Chinna Creek and Bin Qasim sites were not considered suitable as habitations existing close to the barge locations would be adversely affected by the power plant. How then is the Korangi location, with millions of people downwind within a few kilometres, acceptable?

Myriad other details and mitigation measures that should have been spelled out and examined by Sepa and the public have not been addressed.

A perusal of the pathetically drafted, conditional NOC issued by Sepa in April makes incredulous reading. It vaguely and generally states that the project proponent “shall do” this or “shall do” that; that standards of the World Bank “shall be observed”; that emergency/contingency plans shall be made; and equally meaningless directions. For example:

“Temperature, TSS and pH of all effluents and gases being released will be controlled through effective equipment and technologies.” Is it not the function of Sepa and the public hearing to evaluate and approve the effectiveness of the proposed mitigation measures?

Does the government realise that degradation of the environment at the World Bank-determined rate of six per cent of GDP is far greater than the three to 3.5 per cent increase in GDP being brought about by ‘economic development’ with dirty electricity? Do they expect the impotent environment ministry or the corrupt EPAs to rectify this? Are we not on the path to ecological suicide?

arfc@cyber.net.pk

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