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KARACHI, June 11: Tormented by the power shortages the Sindh government focuses on developing indigenous coal reserves. In the next Annual Development Plan it has earmarked Rs3710.937 million for Thar coal project.

For energy sector a total of Rs1214.499 million has been kept in the ADP 2011-12. This include Rs1100 million for the coal gasification project.

Sindh Finance Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah while explaining salient features of the budget for 2011-12 said: “Thar coal reserves of 175 billion tons are ample for provision of cost-effective energy for centuries”.

He said that once the reserves were properly exploited they could help in generating 20,000MW by 2020.

Recently, in international competitive bidding, two Chinese companies, an Australian company, and Pakistan Petroleum Limited participated.

As a result, two Chinese companies have been selected to undertake coal exploration, power generation and establishing petro-chemical complex at two blocks of Thar.

He said the bankable feasibility study for joint venture project of the Sindh government and Engro was created to boost the potential in a record period of eight months.

The Sindh government and the federal government have included this project in the list of projects to be taken up with the Pak-China Joint Energy Working Group (JEWG) formed during the last visit of the Chinese prime minister to Pakistan, he said.

Leading Chinese companies have shown strong interest in executing this project. The mining and power generation from this project is expected in 2015-16 depending upon the financing arrangements for the project.

The test burn at Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) is expected during coming financial year. After successful testing, the project will be scaled up to produce 2x50MW electricity.

He said the government has made serious efforts to provide critical infrastructure for development of Thar coal.

A scheme for bringing water to Thar from Makhi Farash has been approved by ECNEC, feasibility studies for effluent disposal and laying of broad-gauge railway line are to be completed in June, 2011.

Work on improvement and widening of road for movement of heavy machinery from Karachi to Mithi-Islamkot is expected to start in next year.

According to rough calculations an amount of $1.20 billion is needed over a period of next five years to develop the required infrastructure for Thar.

Serious efforts are also in place to exploit the Gharo-Keti Bandar wind corridor.

During the Sindh chief minister's recent visit to South Korea an MoU to generate 2000MW of wind energy was signed with Korea Southern Power Company.

The issue of electric power is of great priority for Sindh. The CCI has given approval to the removal of a limit on the ceiling of 50MW, which was earlier set at which provinces could construct power plants.

The Sindh government has signed a letter of intent with the Three Gorges Project Corporation, China's premier electricity producer, to help explore the hydro power potential in Sindh.

A team from CWE, a subsidiary of the Three Gorges, recently visited Sukkur Barrage to gauge the potential for constructing a power plant.

Under the village electrification programme 446 villages were provided electricity during 2010-11, while the process for providing power to 350 more villages is underway.