Private sector investment, particularly the development of billion-dollar coal projects in Tharparkar will certainly change the fate of its residents. Tharparkar – the most backward district of the country remained in limelight due to starvation, water scarcity, and newborn deaths due to malnourishment, inexistence of health and education, etc., for the last few decades. However, the plight would no longer prevail, thanks to Thar Foundation for intervention in fields of education, healthcare, livelihood, infrastructure, social preservation and disaster management.
Mohsin Babbar, Media and Communication in charge, Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) said in a press statement that Thar Foundation has been established by the SECMC and Engro Powergen Thar Limited (EPTL) together with the Sindh Government for the betterment of the principal stakeholders of Thar Coal – the people of Tharparkar. “The foundation, with the help of other organizations, has so far spent Rs 4 billion on healthcare, education, livelihood, skills development and social & cultural preservation of the dwellers of Thar. Various NGOs are keen to contribute their part for the development of the district.
Highlighting plans, Babbar said a 250 bed Thar Foundation Hospital would be constructed in Islamkot in collaboration with Indus Hospital, Shahid Afridi Foundation and Government of Sindh by the end of 2018. The project would cost $15 million. Architectural designs of the hospital have already been finalized. The health facility would provide free of cost Medicare to locals. As many as 28 local Thari women have been trained for driving trucks in the first batch of ongoing 'women dump truck programme'. We have received nearly 100 applications for the coming batches, he said.
In collaboration with the Global Health Directorate and Indus Hospital, TB and immunization camps have been started in Block II. Health camps including eye, skin, dental and emergency relief camps to be conducted in 2018. A system of Mobile clinics will be established in Islamkot Taluka. Mandatory Birth Immunization Programme to be launched in Block II – to be expanded gradually to Islamkot Taluka in a couple of years.
It may be relevant to mention here that SECMC and Engro Powergen Thar limited (EPTL) along with other partners are working on lignite excavation and construction of 660 MW indigenous coal based power plant in Thar Coal field Block-11. Thar Coal project is among the largest public private partnerships in Pakistan's history. With a combined investment to around $3 billion, it is largest private investment under CPEC with majority of equity being contributed by local investors.
He said SECMC has signed an MoU with TCF to establish 1000 students' capacity schools in each taluka of Tharparkar. A total of 8 schools will be constructed. The 1st TCF School-Engro campus would be operational before the end of 2017 at Islamkot with a capacity to educate 1,000 students. 2nd TCF School is being established in Jiwan Das. It would become operational in 2018. 3rd TCF School-Mithi will start operations in August 2018. The school has been sponsored by Thal Nova Thar Power Company Limited.
Thar Foundation expects to start construction of the remaining 5 schools before commercial operation of the project with each school costing $1.5 million. Similarly, Thar Foundation has constructed 3 primary schools in Bitra, Mansingh Bhee, and Thariyo Halepoto villages which would cater to 580 students. 215 Thari locals were trained as dumper drivers in 3 months. These locals form an integral part of the mining workforce accounting for 73 percent of the drivers at the mine. Similarly, some 745 locals were provided various skills trainings such as scaffolding, masonry, steel fixing, pipefitting, etc. Today over 74 percent of these locals are working either at the mining and power projects or with various vendors.
75 percent out of the total 2000 local employees in SECMC belong to Tharparkar, he said. The 'one year programme' has been designed in collaboration with Saylani Welfare Trust to train 50 Thari students at Saylani Institute in Karachi. The course will cover Web development, Java script and mobile app development along with soft skills trainings. The students will also be provided mentorship by Engro's IS department.
Senhri Dars and Thariyo Halepoto villages will have to relocate for mining purposes for which SECMC has developed a Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) in consultation with the GoS and local population of Block-II. Compensation of land (5 times market value) has been made to land owners. Landless peasants will also be compensated out of the fund created by company in association with GoS. This is being done at mine as well as reservoir site.
SECMC has planted around 30,000 trees with a vision to plant 10 trees for every tree cut. We are maintaining complete record of tree cutting as a responsible company and submitting it to SEPA and wildlife departments on regular basis. So far we have also installed and operating at our own expense 4 RO plants in the nearby area of reservoir to provide drinking water to local community.
Thar Foundation is working with the Government of Sindh to take over all government schools (700) in the Islamkot Taluka over the next 5 years which will be the largest public-private partnership in the social sector. He said Thar Foundation's short term aim is to ensure that at least 10,000 children from Thar are being educated in its schools prior to CoD of the mining and power project.
Introduction of modern teaching methods and technologies at these schools were meant to ensure that Thari students are at par with counterparts from other parts of the country when they choose to pursue higher education.