During the Resource Equity dialog that took place in Karachi on 4th May 2016, Thar coal extraction was taken as an energy project and its impact on land and water resources in Sindh was analysed. Participants from academia, civil society and researchers raised the following key questions:
- Who will challenge the project’s claim that the social and ecological cost of coal extraction is 'reversible and neutral' to the Thar Desert?
- What are the patterns of resource change in the Thar Desert as an impact of the coal extraction project?
- Are there any possible internal displacements and a sense of socio cultural alienation that is going to arise around the area of the coal extraction site?
- At what stage are the interests of local community recognized?
The Group Aspirations:
- The rights of indigenous people impacted by the Thar coal project will be taken as a collective/ common responsibility within Sindh as well as at the national level. This becomes especially important in a territory where local public protest is dangerous due to the political sensitivity of a border area. The Hindu religion of the local community living within the project site adds another dimension of sensitivity to the project.
- Civil society will be able to challenge the neutral impact assessments claimed by the Thar coal project on the social and ecological dimensions. The project will be placed within the context of larger trends of common land management, climate change, access to clear water, water recharge as well as impact on human health. The transformations that are underway with respect to social structure, livelihoods, displacement, land speculation and changes in the asset holding of the local communities will be understood and debated with stakeholders.
- A clearer understanding will be reached on the legal status of land tenure where the project site is located. Legal gaps in defining tenure and rights to own and use lands situated on the project site will be understood by the key stakeholders. The project will also clarify why land has been sold to the project instead of being leased as initially understood by civil society/ communities.
- The project will bring socio-economic development to the area thus giving rise to entrepreneurships (milk collection, bio-saline agriculture, etc.). Participants hoped that infrastructure and communication development will impact the local economy positively. Housing schemes and increased public sector investment and corporate funding are also thought to be part of the process. Communities will be provided exposure which will also give rise to urbanization. The project promises energy security at both national and local level.