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Sindh Engro Coal Mining and Power Plant Project, Thar Desert, Pakistan

In the thirsty Thar desert, Pakistan has begun to dig up one of the world’s largest deposits of low-grade, brown, dirty coal to fuel new power stations, with Chinese investments.


While the rest of the world is hopefully clamping down on coal, Pakistan is planning to increase lignite mining with five new power plants scheduled to start producing electricity by 2018 and many more in the pipeline. These plants will spew billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over their lifetime further jeopardizing the future of our planet. China has become Pakistan’s partner of choice for investment, construction and operation of these new coal-fired power plants. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a bilateral deal between the two countries under which the Chinese government and banks will financially support Chinese companies to build USD 45.6 billion worth of energy and infrastructure projects in Pakistan over the next six years. [7].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict: Sindh Engro Coal Mining and Power Plant Project, Thar Desert, Pakistan
State or province:Sindh
Location of conflict:Mithi, Sindh, Pakistan
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Coal extraction and processing
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Coal
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Thar Engro Coal Power Project (Thar-ll) is a mining project and coal-fired power plant under construction in Tharparkar District, Sindh, Pakistan 25 kilometers from the town of Islamkot near the village of Singharo-Bitra. The project is being developed as part of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (a joint venture between the government of Sindh and Engro Corporation) and China Machinery Engineering Corporation in the Thar Block-II of the Thar Coalfield.

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Project area:9,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project1,470
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:12 villages, 18,000 people
Start of the conflict:2015
Company names or state enterprises:Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) from Pakistan
China Machinery Engineering Corporation from China
Engro Powergen Thar Limited from Pakistan
Relevant government actors:Government of Sindh
International and Finance InstitutionsChina Pakistan Economic Corridor from China
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Islamabad Sustainable Development Policy Institute.
Sindh National Front.
Thar Sujag Saath, Thar Voice Forum.
Villagers from affected villages.
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Hindu minorities in the Thar desert
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation
Sit-in, street marches against mining waste water reservoir in Islamkot [8]. [9]
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Groundwater pollution or depletion, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Air pollution, Global warming, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil erosion
Other Environmental impacts"The livestock becomes highly dependent on trees. “One of the most serious environmental issues is that, at present the felling of the Rohiro tree is banned. “Also, according to the UNDP and Environment Ministry, the gugrall (Camiphera mukul), phoge (Clligonum polygonoides), rohiro (Tecoma undulata), Peeloo (Salvadora persica), Kandi (Prosopis cineraria) and Kombhat (Acacia Senegal) are threatened species."[9]
Health ImpactsPotential: Other Health impacts, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents
Other Health impactsCoal dust, respiratory illnesses
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Land dispossession, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women
Potential: Displacement, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Violations of human rights
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The lignite mining and power plant with 660MW of Sindh Engro with Chinese support and financing seems to be going ahead. There are many complaints (because of land grabbing and water pollution, and also at another scale because of climate change) against further exploitation in lignite reserves in the Thar desert.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[5]Pakistan’s coal expansion brings misery to villagers in Thar desert. China Dialogue. 12.09.2016. Coal excavation will displace thousands of people already living in poverty and deplete groundwater in a region ravaged by drough. By Amar Guriro. (Also in The Third Pole,
[click to view]

[1] The Guardian, 27 Febr. 2017, Locals accuse Pakistan of doing the dirty by turning to coal to meet energy needs. As Pakistan seeks to address its power crisis by mining coal, villagers in the Thar desert are fighting to prevent state acquisition of their ancestral land
[click to view]

[4] This Mile-Wide Hole Could Revolutionize Pakistan's Economy

By Faseeh Mangi. 21 March 2017.
[click to view]

[7] Maha Qasim, The dangers of Pakistan’s coal revival

Due to a crippling electricity shortage, Pakistan is all set to expand power generation through coal, but renewables may be a better option
[click to view]

[8] Hanif Samoon, 12 May 16. Mining firm comes out with "facts" to end protests against reservoir (complaints by activists and political groups in Islamkot and Gorano village)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[2] Interview with Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh, in conversation with Mariam Ali Baig, fully describing the project.
[click to view]

[6] Lignite exploitation and combustion, Thar desert, as part of the investments in the Chinese-Pakistan economic corridor (Belt and Road projects)
[click to view]

[9]30 Dec. 2016, by Zulfikar Kunbhar. Thar’s locals are unhappy with plans for a reservoir to store coal mining effluent. (Excellent article).
[click to view]

[ 3 ] Interview: Shamsuddin A. Shaikh, CEO of Engro Powergen & Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company
[click to view]

Meta information
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3086
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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