A modern change approaching Tharparkar

Tharparkar people have not only been provided with job opportunity but they are also made shareholders of Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company – SECMC

Amid scorching sun rays, sand dunes, and heat waves, workers were heading towards their daily activities at Block-II, Taluka Islamkot, district Tharparkar. Thar has kicked off developing and enhancing at considerable extent and credit goes to Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), which aims to make electricity by digging lignite coal at Block-II, Tharparkar. The 200 billion rupees project is financially fractioned in 54% share of Sindh government, 12% share of SECMC, and remaining share will be enjoyed by other mix of partners of the project.

The coal has started to sprinkle the golden water not only on the lives of Tharis but whole the Pakistan as it claims that: “Thar Badleendo Pakistan” Thar will change Pakistan.

About 71% employment is provided to Thari people under different working sections including engineering, medical, labor, mining, transportation, communication, and media. According to one of high-ups of SECMC at Block-II (the area spread over 96 square kilometers, in which 1.5 sq km is attributed to mining activities), 450 dumper drivers are currently working and 500 others are being planned to recruit at Block-II to further accelerate the operations. However, 4000 people are working in SECMC in the current run.

The company is implementing a plan for affected families of Block-II to provide them eco-friendly houses free of cost. And each house costs 35 to 40 lac rupees. This house will be provided to each couple living in Block-II area. According to communication officer at Block-II, 450 families will be migrated to free homes till 2025, whereas migration of 172 affected families will be done in 2018. This eco-friendly house will not only fill joy in the sand dunes but it will be equipped with 24-hour free Wi-Fi service.  One can do research to compare the development initiatives of any corporation in Pakistan who has done at such level for the local direct and indirect beneficiaries.

What a sustainable and moral philosophical corporation can do the SECMC is such doing so. For affectees of Block-II, health, water, education are ensured at greater extent. Contracts of 1.1 billion rupees have been given to local contractors, and 80 to 90 percent people of Block-II are provided jobs in SECMC.

The sum of development has capability to develop Thar in broader aspect. Like schemes of rupees five billion (5billion) have been started, three billion rupees are for hospital infrastructure.

Inspiring from SECMC’s working capacities, some other companies have also been willing to work on installing power plants in Tharparkar. These companies have asked SECMC to help them to achieve this task. It is the efficiency and transparency of the company, which creates sources of development in Tharparkar in the long run. Currently, Chinese are working on power plant, almost major portion of the power plant has been completed.

According to Wali Mohammad of village Bazejo, waiting for tea at a local hotel, the company has changed lifestyle of the people. When I asked him how? He replied: “About 70 to 80 people from my village are working in Engro. Most of them were ignored by the local landlords and feudal lords from working. But now they all work freely and earn butter & bread with dignity. Each person earns Rs. 27000 to Rs. 35000 per month. They have built their own homes and their children have become able to go to school for education”. But the last content of his answer astonished me that “some traditional feudal lords and anti-development people are trying to malign the operations of Engro company in order to prevent people from development of all types as they wanted to make them their constant slaves”. The views of Wali Mohammad raised a question in my mind that: when SECMC is doing good for the direct and indirect beneficiaries (Tharis) then why there are a lot of hue and cries regarding SECMC in Tharparkar?

This question led me to reach area of Gorano reservoir (the area which is most debated in the different sessions and talked in the media but it is made as a conflict by some local troublemakers), where I met with security guard of the SECMC-provided school. He praised the development initiatives of SECMC and willing to see Thar changed in the future.

I came across that Gorano reservoir affected families have been compensated by the company through Sindh government according to Land Acquisition Act 1894. The SECMC has provided 1.1 billion rupees to Sindh government to compensate land owners. And the revenue department has successfully distributed 90 crores among the landowners in the first run, and remaining 20 crores will be distributed as other land owners show their ownership documents. However, apart from this, many other development schemes are on the table for the people of village Gorano people. Most important to note is that discharging water in the compensated land of village Gorano will be discontinued as digging at Block-II stops after coal is discovered soon within few months.

The Gorano (reservoir) was made a conflict and coined as dam. Whereas, it is not a dam but small water reservoir or one can say it a ‘pond’. The ground water coming from digging at Block-II is discharged in this land. However, the discharged water has spread greenery in village Gorano. I saw different birds on the water path, making sense of good environment not only for people but also for other creatures like birds. However, I did not see any house or hut at or near long distance of Gorano reservoir vicinity. So those who falsely claim that Gorano reservoir will destroy the environment of Thar, in my opinion they are doing zilch but helping those who want to see Thar undeveloped till the cows come home.

It is usual that when any company starts operating in the targeted area, community problems arise. Like oil and gas companies working in district Badin and other areas of Sindh, community problems vents through operations of the company.

A local Thari troublemaker has been trying to malign the fate of Tharis and Tharparkar. This troublemaker is playing with these (frustrated by bad-governance) Tharis and asking them to not cooperate with SECMC at any condition. And the strange to know is this man does not live in village Gorano but he is well settled in Karachi, where he is running his own business. A local of village Gorano informed me that the troublemaker visits Gorano village occasionally once or twice in a year. This man has been creating misunderstanding between company and people, though he himself not breathes in scorching rays of Gorano village.

Keeping in mind that Tharparkar has been on the top with regard to different issues and problems. Whether it is be pure drinking water, electricity, education, constant unfriendly atmosphere, health, and other basic facilities but the area has remained off the track from the development and other facilities to be provided by authorities concerned.

But the interventions of SECMC have added life to Tharis. Schools, medical hospitals, nurseries, zoo, heritage parks, birds zone, fish zone, trees, plants, pure drinking water, solar energy panels, and employment opportunity to Thari people in labor and management landscapes are creating bliss of the luxurious joy of the life. Legally, SECMC was liable to plant 10, 000 trees but it is good for many to hear that it has planted one lac and forty thousand trees yet and the it will cross the number by the end of 2019 and reach to 11 lacs.

Tharis have not only been provided with job opportunity but they are also made shareholders of SECMC, and the local contractors have been given the contracts to complete different works. Talking about Marvi hospital funded by SECMC, Wali Mohammad said that: “This hospital has utility to observe and check people’s health as compared to big hospitals of Hyderabad and Karachi”, and “a patient of 25 years from my village is feeling better now after having diagnosed at this facility”, he added.

The company has established and funded schools in different areas of Tharparkar, which are no longer required to pay the tuition fees, and in these schools pure drinking water, solar energy, science hall, computer laboratory, and other facilities have been provided by the company. These schools have been running by The Citizen’s Foundation (TCF).

I was caught in strange to see such development initiatives, SECMC has practiced institutional development. 1000 people have been trained in development sectors, 500 people have been provided short courses, and 70 engineers are on training abroad: 30 are from district Tharparkar and 40 are from other districts of Sindh. I was informed that NED University, Karachi has ensured building university at Taluka Islamkot, district Tharparkar.

What government needs to do is to stop troublemakers from anti-development activities to let Thar develop and find other sources of development for the region. The local civil society and business community should stand against such elements who do not want to see Thar as a hub of industries, tourism, education, and well-established infrastructure with technology benefiting whole the country.

The author is a development sector researcher. He can be reached at furqanhyders@gmail.com, and  Tweets @furqanppolicy
Author: Editorial

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