Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Wednesday inaugurated the Thar coal power project which has the capacity to generate 660 megawatts and consists of two power generation units of 330MW each.
“I just inaugurated Thar coal power plant. The highest man-made structure in Pakistan,” Bilawal said in a tweet.
Addressing the inauguration ceremony of the first major coal-based power project based in Sindh’s Tharparkar district, Bilawal said, “Today, the PPP has displayed its belief in delivering for the masses. This project and its success is a milestone for all of Pakistan. The PPP and Sindh government has set an example for all other political parties of this country, who remain limited to tall claims with no actual achievements.”
Bilawal said that the Thar coal power project validates the 18th Amendment as it shows the potential of the provinces when they have control over their own resources. He also said that the project was a product of the public-private partnership model that his party had pursued over the past few years.
Bilawal also announced several development measures for Tharparkar District, including the establishment of a campus of the NED Engineering University. He said that once the campus is established in Thar, the Sindh government will also set up a multi-disciplinary university on the public-private partnership model.
The PPP chairman announced that the provincial government would now pay the electricity bills of all Tharparkar residents. Taking a jibe at Prime Minister Imran Khan over his promise of transforming Pakistan into a welfare state, Bilawal said, “These are the measures that one expects in a welfare state and in ‘Naya Pakistan’. PPP is the only political party that has consistently delivered on its promises and we will continue to work for the uplift of Pakistan and its people.”
Before the inauguration ceremony, Bilawal visited the project facility, including the power generation plants and the coalfields providing the fuel for the project.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and PPP leaders, as well as Sindh cabinet members, were in attendance at the inauguration ceremony. Murad said that he considered Thar coal power project as an achievement at par with Pakistan’s nuclear tests.
“The project is a manifestation of the provincial government and PPP will provide a better future for Pakistan’s coming generations. We faced a lot of criticism and received constant negative feedback at the planning stage. Those people were focusing on the difficulties that could be faced in the project’s execution. We were aware of the challenges too but knew they could be overcome,” he said. “We did not take a U-turn on the matter and the result has been beneficial for the whole of Pakistan,” he added.
The project was completed under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) flagship public-private partnership of government of Sindh. For this project, the Sindh government had given the sovereign guarantee of $700 million.
It is pertinent to mention here that for the succession of the project, Mai Bakhtawer Airport, roads and bridges were also established beside provision of water for power generation.
On Tuesday, Thar Coal Power Plant’s Project Manager Faisal Shafiq told the media that one of the power generation units had already been synchronised with the national grid and the synchronisation of the second unit would commence today. Tests and trials to check evacuation of electricity had been done, he added.
The project manager said that the formal commercial operations of the power plant would commence by June this year. The project took around 10 years to complete, said Shafiq, from the time the project was conceived and when Sindh government finally entered into a partnership with Engro under the public-private partnership regime.
He said that it was arduous and nerve-testing work for all the stakeholders involved, who put their best efforts forward during the last decade so that the first ever major power project of the country, which would consume indigenously available coal reserves, could be realised.
The project manager of Thar Block-II coal mine, Naeem Pasha, had informed on Tuesday that the mining operation had formally commenced in 2016 and the open-pit mining operation had now reached a depth of 160 metres. He added that the current coal extraction levels could sustain the daily fuel needs of the 660 MW power plant.
Pasha said that coal mine of Thar block-II tapped into just 1 per cent of the massive Thar coal reserves of 175 billion tonnes, which was enough to generate electricity for the next 50 years.