MAC: Mines and Communities

Villagers begin 'hunger strike till death' against Thar Coal in Pakistan

Published by MAC on 2016-12-12
Source: Daily Times, The News

The energy development has met long-standing opposition from local communities

The Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company, a joint venture between the Government of Sindh and Engro Powergen Limited, was established in 2009 with the primary objective of exploiting the coal reserves located in the Thar Desert, Sindh province, in southeast Pakistan.

The project assessment was conducted by RWE-RE GmbH from Germany and Sinocoal International Engineering Research and Design Institute from China. An Environmental and Social Impact Assessment of the mining project was conducted by Hagler Bailly Pakistan and SRK Consulting UK.

While the World Bank withdrew from financing the project in 2010, a consortium of Chinese and Pakistani banks committed to foot its total debt of US$1.5 billion in 2015.

The energy development has met long-standing opposition from local communities. According to Thar Voice Forum, a 2,700 acres dam will store hazardous water extracted from the mines. The dam will be located near Gorano village, some 38 kilometers from Islamkot, which they claim would destroy their lands as well as that of fifteen neighbouring villages.

Thar Voice Forum also tells us that the vulnerable villages have a population of 15,000 whose livelihood, farming and livestock, would be affected. The Thar desert faces a water scarcity where 200,000 trees, 100 per cent of cultivable land, 20,000 sweet water wells and 10 natural ponds are considered precious.

The Thar Coal Dam affectees from 12 villages have continued to observe hunger strike for 50 consecutive days, and four of them have announced they will continue the strike "till death". Villagers have been protesting against the administration of Thar Coal Authority and the government of Sindh,  demanding they change the location of the proposed dam.

"The construction of the reservoir means great injustice for local people and a big blunder destroying the villages, mosques, temples, graveyards, historical places and pastures of Tharis living there for centuries", protestors stated.

Villagers begin 'hunger strike till death'

16 December, 2016

MIRPUR KHAS: The Thar Coal Dam affectees from 12 villages have continued to observe hunger strike on 55th consecutive day as four of them have announced to continue the strike till death. Villagers have been protesting against the administration of Thar Coal Authority and the government of Sindh. They have been demandinga change in the location of the proposed dam.

People of Gorano village remain steadfast in their fight against reservoir

December 14, 2016

SUKKUR: The people of Gorano village, some 38 kilometers off Islamkot, once again rejected offers and assurances of the coalmining firm's officials to end their protest against the construction of the reservoir at their village.

Meanwhile, the villagers protest against the mega project entered 53rd day on Monday. Leela Ram, the leader of the protesting villagers, told journalists they would never accept any offer from the officials until the work on the site was stopped.

Ram told the journalists they would never deviate from their demand that the government changed the site of the reservoir spread over 2,700 acres. He said that toxic water of the mines from Block 1 and 2 of the Thar coalfield would destroy a vast area of their land, forcing them to leave their centuries-old abodes.

Leela Ram, however, said doors for talks were open. It may be recalled here that Shamsuddin Shaikh, the chief executive officer of the coalmining company, visited the camp over the weekend where hunger strike was being staged outside the Islamkot Press Club and requested the protesting villagers of Gorano to end their protest “in the national interest”.

"We might have made some minor mistakes before carrying out the construction work of the reservoir, but we cannot change it now," Shaikh had told the leaders of the villagers. He said that he had brought his wife to the protestors’ camp to request the women protestors to end their protest. 

Talking to the local newsmen Shaikh said that the company had been trying its best to address the genuine problems and concerns of the local inhabitants, claiming that Thar's coal was an important feature of CPEC and would usher in a new era of prosperity in Thar.

The villagers, including women, refused to end their protest. Later, Shaikh, along with the leaders of the protesters and some journalists, went to Gorano village. The villagers insisted that the firm either changed the site of the reservoir or showed them studies if any conducted by the company regarding environmental degradation by the hazardous reservoir.

Meanwhile, the activists of various political and social organizations resumed their hunger strike at Kashmir Chowk in Mithi against the construction of the reservoir. Fakeer Irshad Kumbhar, Ghansham Malhi, GR Junejo and others vowed to continue their protest and warned to enlarge its scope. Leaders of the Thar Voice Forum, Partab Shivani, Shahnawaz Hingorjo, Kapil Dev and Dr Bhishum Kotak, told this reporter that the visit of Shaikh to the camp was a ploy to dupe the villagers.

They said that the officials of the mining company after miserably failing to defend themselves in the wake of a vigorous protest drive launched by the villagers were now trying to lure them with petty incentives.  They said they would foil all the attempts of the firm to misguide the people.

Protesters against reservoir in Thar Coal area reject CM’s committee for talks

November 30, 2016

SUKKUR: The villagers resumed their hunger strike and protest against the reservoir in Thar Coal Area on Tuesday while their leaders, Leela Ram and others, rejected the committee formed by Syed Murad Ali Shah for talks with them. The protestors alleged that the PPP leaders wanted to displace thousands of inhabitants of the 12 villages of Thar Coal Area.

The protesting villagers, including women and children, vowed to continue their protest. They demanded of the government to change the site of the dam in the light of the studies carried out by the environmentalists and water experts.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister of Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah, while talking to the media in village Fakeer-jo-Dhoro on Tuesday said that the Sindh government was committed to providing all the basic amenities to the people of Thar.

Replying to a question, the chief minister said he had formed a three-member committee comprising some senior PPP leaders to hold talks with the protesting villagers of Gorano village.

He hoped that the villagers protesting against the alleged hazardous reservoir in Thar Coal Area would be convinced to end their protest in the best interests of Thar. Syed Murad Ali Shah categorically said that the site of the dam would never be changed.

The chief minister said he would visit Thar to review the ongoing development work in the district. He expressed his dismay over the federal government’s failure to announce the NFC Award. "The 9th NFC Award has nothing to do with the census, and the federal government should award it forthwith," he added.

CM talks to media in Kandhkot: Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah talking to the media in Kandhkot on Tuesday said there was a possibility of an alliance with MQM Pakistan, but he also said that there would be no compromise on the law and order of Karachi. He paid glowing tributes to the services of General Raheel Sharif for the country and the nation.

People of Thar coal area resume protest against reservoir

November 22, 2016

SUKKUR: The people of the Thar coal area resumed their protest against the construction of a reservoir near their villages.

The protesters, including women and children, told the journalists at their hunger strike camp outside the Islamkot Press Club that they had rejected offers of talks made by the high-ups of the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company.

They said the offer of talks made by the high-ups of the company was a deception to divert the attention of the people supporting their peaceful protests against the hazardous reservoir being constructed in their area.

They alleged that they were being threatened to call off their ongoing protests in Thar and in Karachi. The people of the villages reiterated that the reservoir would force several hundred residents of at least 12 villages to migrate to other areas. They vowed to continue their protest.

Meanwhile, some officials of the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company rejected the claims of the people of the villages that the construction of the reservoir would destroy the villages. They said that the company had already acquired the land for the dam from the Sindh government.

Victims of wastewater from Thar Coal field protest against coal company

16 November, 2016

KARACHI: Large numbers of the people from Thar Desert held a protest demonstration outside Karachi Press Club on Thursday to protest against Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) and said that the company is destroying their agricultural fields and also damaging ecosystem.

They were carrying placards and were chanting slogans against the coal company.

Talking to Daily Times, Leela Ram, one of the petitioners from Thar Desert who had filled a petition recently against the SECMC said that the mining company is posing serious threats to the locals in Thar Desert. The coal company has planned a wastewater reservoir in village Gorano, near Thar Coal Site, to dump the ground water that will be exerted during the mining.

"The company during excavation, exerts huge amount of ground water that will be dumped over 2,700 acres of cultivatable land and forest, which will directly affect 15 major villages with 15,000 people, 200,000 trees that would will die and all these people will have to migrate from their native villages," said Leela Ram.

He said that around 12 major villages will be destroyed completely due to the dumping of the wastewater. "We demand to change the site of the wastewater dumping reservoir from this area to another.

However, on contact, CEO SECMC, Shaikh rejected the claims of the villagers and said his company would only use 1,400 acres for two reservoirs to store the water extracted during excavation. "It will be natural underground saline water, not toxic or poisonous in any way and it will not affect any village," he claimed.

The villagers said that if the water is dumped, it will destroy the fertile agricultural land, which is major source of livelihood, beside livestock for locals. "Thar Desert is already suffering with acute water shortage and severe droughts and since the company will start dumping wastewater, it will be very destructive for the locals," said another protester.

Locals are afraid that the company will extract huge amounts of groundwater for coal excavation, a region where groundwater level is dropping in some areas by 2 meters a year and has fallen to 100 meters deep in some places due to prolonged drought. Drought in the desert has led to the death of more than 3,000 children in the past three years, although authorities have admitted only 828 deaths.

The protesting villagers also alleged that the coal company has chopped large number of the indigenous trees and despite several promises the company is doing nothing to restore the local forests.

"We used to avail the leaves of these local trees as fodder for our animals and but now company is planting alien spices like Conocarpus on the name of reforestation, which will bring another disaster in near future," said the villagers.

They demanded the government of take action against the company and help the villagers.

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