Sir: It is alarming that India is consuming 98 percent of the total 685 million tons of coal in South Asia, mostly in the power sector. More alarming is that these power projects are located along the Pakistan-India border causing dangerous environmental hazards to Pakistan. The recent letter written to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by eminent climate expert Arshad H Abbasi of Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) rightly warns that the trans-boundary air pollution caused by Indian coal plants along the Pakistan-India border is not only creating dangerous fog inside Pakistan, but is also inflicting millions of dollars of loss to the country’s environment and economy. India has itself acknowledged in the international courts while defending the controversial hydropower projects on Pakistan’s rivers that the power generation plants based on coal are not sustainable environmentally. India says: “Our coal-based thermal power plants are emitting ash, causing serious pollution and helping to form fog in the subcontinent.” India further maintains in the international courts that the development of hydropower projects on Pakistan’s rivers was not only polluting the environment but also adding to global warming.
This very fact was also endorsed by former Director General Metrological Department, Dr Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, who is currently associated with LEAD-Pakistan as Senior Adviser on Climate Change. He confirmed that the carbon emissions from the coal-based power houses in India is the main reason for fog in many areas of Pakistan’s Punjab. It is more hazardous on the Motorway’s section from Kallar Kahar-Bhera area to Lahore. Two years back the Met office conducted a study on fog with the conclusion that coal-based power plants in India’s Punjab are contributing to fog generation in the western part of Pakistan’s Punjab. He quotes an interesting report by the Centre for Study of Science and Technology, Bangalore, which reveals that the Indian coal’s quality is very poor having 35 percent to 45 percent ash content and low heating value. Thus generation of one unit of electricity emits one kilogram of carbon dioxide. The emission of other more hazardous gases, such as sulphur oxides, nitrogen, fly ash, and suspended particles are responsible for the greenhouse effect. The energy mix in India is heavily dependent on coal, and electricity generation on coal fuel is 71 percent, the highest in South Asia. Yet, the coal in India is of poor quality, with high ash content and low calorific value. The environmentalists in India must also be concerned about the negative environmental effects of coal, and they must realize that this should not be at the expense of Pakistani citizens’ health and environmental sustainability in the region.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while making peace with India — which is the call of the time — must take up this case with India and together find out a mechanism to save the region from environmental hazards.