Tharparkar is a vast arid land and the largest district of Sindh. It is home to seven million sheep, goats, cows and camels who provide sustenance to the 1.65 million people who live there.
Following establishment of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects across the country, the desert area is also witnessing new development projects including the coal mine power plant which is claimed to generate power for the country for next 200 years. This project offers unprecedented opportunities to the residents of Tharparkar.
The financers of the Pakistan’s largest open-pit coal mine project have deep regard for development of human resource of the area, therefore they are providing skilled training and advanced education to them. They believe in equal opportunities for all.
Therefore, around 12 women drive 60-tonne trucks and Nusrat is one of them. Talking to an Al Jazeera reporter Nusrat said she was afraid when she saw the gigantic truck for the first time but now it was a source of livelihood for her family.
Most of the women in Thar belong to conservative Hindu families who get married young and look after their children whole their lives. So driving truck is not just a job for them but it is a way of women empowerment.
Nusrat not just drives a truck but she also cooks food, washes clothes and brings water from well in the morning as they don’t have running water in taps.
So the project of coal mine is a complete package for the residents of the area. Those who have been displaced because of it have been provided far better and bigger houses and lands than they previously held, apart from the jobs they got according to their skills. The government of Pakistan has allocated a certain share from the profit of the project for development of the area.
While there are enormous boons attached to this project, there also is a serious bane of environmental threat.
The project developers have created a lake from underground water for cooling process of the energy supply project. It is feared that this man-made lake may contaminate fresh water of the region, while the locals are already facing acute water shortages in this desert.
Talking to Al Jazeera, a local resident Bhoro Mal had said they were very worried about because of this lake as it would affect their ground water supply
Villagers say the water that is extracted from deep underground and will be stocked in the lake is not fit for human consumption or agriculture because of its high salt content, a claim that is disputed by planners of the project.
Manager Planning and Environment Muhammad Idrees said the water was not toxic. It was coming from the underground and it was even diluter than the normal seawater, he said.
On the environmental concerns arising from the burning of plethora of coal, the project developers claim that there would be no or very low environmental impact.