Apropos to the report, titled ‘Tharis are forced to consume toxic water’, published in DAWN on March 26, 2022 – Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) would like to clarify that claims made in the report are factually incorrect and misleading on many levels.
SECMC abides by the highest standards of environmental stewardship. Our strategy is deeply centered around our core values whereby we work towards unparalleled standards of integrity and accountability for all our actions. We are aware of our commitment to include a broader stakeholder community and as part of our inclusive business model we ensure all our stakeholders are benefitting from our operations directly and indirectly. We are fully compliant with Environmental Protection Act/Sindh Environmental Act IEE-EIA Regulations 2000 and Sindh Coal Mine Rules 2016. We also voluntarily adopt various international standards such as International Finance Corporation (IFC) – Guidelines for Monitoring Parameters amongst others.
Firstly, the author claims that the “mining activity in Thar was poisoning the precarious groundwater resources”. The mining activity is not using any underground sources of water as it doesn’t need water for operations.
Secondly the article claims that “percolation of toxic water from Gorano and Dukar Chaou reservoirs; lowering of the water table around mining sites and dumping of wastewater in farmlands have been posing a serious threat to the ecosystem and public health” is also factually incorrect. As part of mining operations aquifers above the mine belt need to be dewatered. This ground water once pumped is being deposited at the Gorano Reservoir. Dewatering activities do not have any impact the existing water tables. A baseline study was conducted before the initiation of the project to determine the existing quality and quantity of water at the time. Since then, we have continuously monitored the quantity and quality of water, and our studies indicate that there has been no impact on either of these.
The Gorano reservoir is declared a unique wetland by the globally renowned, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and is serving as a habitat ecosystem for various species of fish and birds in the region. The water being dewatered to Gorano is neither treated nor effluent and is natural groundwater that is not brine. There has been no contamination from water abstraction and disposal operations for Block II and, in fact, if the authors had visited the vicinity, they would know that the said water has often been pumped by nearby villagers for agricultural purposes, too. This refutes the claims made in the article that; “sweet water of the wells surrounding the wastewater reservoirs was getting toxic” and that the “cases of malarial fever and livestock casualties have significantly increased in the area.”
In addition, SECMC also hires an independent monitoring agency – “Global Environmental Management Services (Pvt) Limited (GEMS)- for inspection of dug wells in the nearby villages. All parameters are compared with baseline data conducted in 2014 during ESIA. Till now the parameters have not chnaged nor any impact identified.
The claim that during the mining activity, some “serious violations of environmental laws” were being “committed by coal mining and power generation companies”. SECMC abides with the highest standards of health, safety and environment. Since the inception of this project, we have been 100% Environmental NOC Compliant and follow all local as well as some international standards of regulations and guidelines as mentioned above.
The report quotes two residents who have claimed “that the coal company was “releasing poisonous water openly with no regard to human life” and that the practice was “harming” livestock as more than “50 buffaloes and cows, 70 plus camels and over 500 goats and sheep have died after drinking the poisonous water”. And how the “20 dug-wells had become saline after Gorano dam was developed; and that more than 50 children living in the villages located close to the dam had died over the last few years”
As previously mentioned, such baseless claims alluding that the deaths are caused by water stored in the reservoir are false. There have been no official reports or claims made by any of the villages relating the mortality of the livestock to the reservoir as there is no contaminated water present there nor being reinjected or released.
As a testament to our commitment, SECMC has installed 17 RO plants across different villages which provides 800,000 gallons of clean drinking water to the communities around and benefits the lives of over 40,000 residents of Thar Block II and adjoining areas. Since day one SECMC has abided by the highest standards of environmental stewardship and reiterates its commitment to continue managing its operations in a way that positively benefits all the communities around where it operates.