The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has become one of the most talked about event in Pakistan and is deemed as an economic anthem for the country. CPEC is a tool for boosting the economy, keeping in lines with the international consensus on Climate Change. CPEC is also slated to be an absolute development and Environment-friendly package for the energy sector and will be a boon for Pakistan’s crippling economy. It includes various road, railway, energy, infrastructure and industrial projects.
In order to meet the energy crisis, Pakistan has suggested various energy projects and coal power plants are one of them. In Sindh, the CPEC is starting numerous energy projects compared to any other province in Pakistan. Coal power plants in the Thar area are being constructed – Thar-I coal power plant with 6600 MW and Thar-II coal power plant (consists of two power plants each of 330MW) will be using the indigenously produced coal through local coal mines. According to an estimate, these local coal mines will be providing 3.8 million tons of coal on yearly basis. Port Qasim coal power plant is another coal-based power plant constructed in Sindh worth $2billion. Moreover, in Sahiwal, coal power project of 1320MW is to be built along with another project of a coal mine worth $589 million. A 330 MW of coal plant will also be built in the Punjab Salt Range. In Baluchistan and Gwadar; coal power plants of 660 MW and 300MW will be constructed respectively, to meet the energy demands
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The CPEC Impact on Environment
However, with such huge investments in the energy projects, a major concern is the possible impact on environmental sustainability and climate change. It is being argued that it will introduce a new set of problems because the coal power plants are considered to be one of the major contributors of greenhouse gases, which cause global warming. It is also being said that these projects ignore the aspect of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Although Pakistan is responsible for a mere 0.43% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is among the world’s 10-most vulnerable countries to climate change. Moreover, it can cause significant damage to eco-tourism and the glaciers, which are diminishing due to expanding infrastructure. The wildlife of the region could also be affected by changing natural landscapes. These are some of the impacts which should not be taken lightly.
Poverty also has a direct relation to environmental degradation and climate change because people turn to cheap resources. However, CPEC is not just about the energy generation projects but the concerned authorities have also considered the best means to considerably reduce the environmental damage. It has been formally agreed that one should not completely take for granted the impact of the carbon footprint on the ecosystem. Unfortunately, coal use has attracted a lot of criticism due to its environmental impact. An analysis shows that Pakistan’s energy mix contains a minimum share of coal and it will remain even less despite the investment in new coal-fired power plants. It is pertinent to note that developed economies like the USA and Germany are still at the forefront in carbon footprint, as compared to Pakistan. Furthermore, for Pakistan, it is important to overcome the problem of the energy crisis and invest in renewable energy.
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CPEC Focuses on Renewable Energy
Both China and Pakistan are aware of the harmful impact of coal and have decided to offset the impact by focusing more on renewable energy projects. It is explicitly explained in the Long Term Plan (LTP) that in the future the renewable energy sector will be the major area of investment. The Federal Minister for Power Division, Sardar Awais Ahmed Khan Leghari, has also proposed to establish a renewable energy institute in the country. This would be a good step to control the carbon footprints. It also promises to bridge the energy gap by constructing numerous hydro, solar, wind power and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) projects to reduce the greenhouse emission.
In order to sustain the energy need and keeping in mind the climate effects, the CPEC energy projects not only engage in generating power from coal but focus on other renewable sources of energy too, such as hydroelectric power. For this, a hydropower plant, Suki Kinari, with total capacity 870MW worth US $1802 Million is to be constructed in Mansehra district of KPK. On 10th of January 2016 construction of another hydropower plant famously known as “Karot Hydropower Plant” was on track. This US $1420 Million power plant will be finished by the year 2020 and will be able to produce 720 MW of power from river Jhelum. These hydropower projects altogether will produce 7190 MW of electricity.
Similarly, the CPEC places solar and wind energy projects on the forefront to avoid the greenhouse emission effect as they not only produce cheap electricity but are also better for the environment and are more sustainable in the long run. Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park in Bahawalpur (US $1302 Million) is a 1,000 MW. solar energy generating plant whose first phase was completed by the year 2015 and the second phase was completed by the end of 2016.The commercial operation date (COD) of 300 MW was attained in August 2016.
To further overcome the coal emissions, a wind power plant at Jhimpir is constructed. It is producing 50 MW of electricity by wind power and another plant of 100 MW is likely to produce electricity through wind power with a cost of US $250 million through the CPEC.
Moreover, it is important to note that Pakistan has planned some LNG energy projects planned to be carried out as part of the CPEC project. Among the LNG projects under CPEC, a 711KM long gas pipeline is to be built which will provide 1 billion cubic feet of LNG per day. The total cost of this project will be $2.5 billion. Along with reducing the carbon emission, this project will supply gas to Pakistan and China will also get benefit from this project for its trade activities.
China Offers Complete Support to Pakistan to Make CPEC Successful
China has adopted strict measures and it has developed a network of 1500 air quality monitoring stations in over 900 cities to control air pollution. Likewise, to further make CPEC an environment-friendly project, Pakistan and China can collaborate on a greenhouse trading mechanism, which will offset environmental cost of carbon emission in Pakistan. However, it has also been stated in the LTP of CPEC, that China will also help Pakistan excel in the production of renewable energy-related technologies. Under global scrutiny, and for all that it promises in the Paris agreement, Pakistan is firmly committed to the purpose and objectives of the Climate Convention; thus Making CPEC an environment-friendly project.
Opinion Penned by Qurat Hashmi, Pakistan. The author can be contacted at [email protected]