Speaker Balochistan Provincial Assembly, Muhammad Aslam Bhootani threatens to move resolution against two projects
Balochistan Assembly Speaker Aslam Bhootani on Monday threatened to move a resolution in the House if reservations and concerns of locals were not addressed prior to the setting up of a coal-based power plant and Bosicor oil refinery’s extension at Gadani. AES Pakistan Limited, a private firm, is actively pushing for the establishment of a coal-based project to produce 1,200 MW of electricity and is in the process of acquiring 300 acres of land, which belongs to the local people. “Likewise, Bosicor oil refinery is working on the extension of its refinery and wants to build a floating jetty at the Gadani beach, where fishermen have a harbour for decades. The jetty would dislocate them without any compensation or alternative means of livelihood,” he said during a chat with The News. Moreover, he said, there would be a lurking danger that pumping of a massive quantity of crude oil could cause oil spill or any damage to the pipeline could trigger serious health and environment hazards. This crucial aspect had been overlooked as the project was envisaged, the speaker pointed out. He noted formerly the firm used to transport crude oil from Port Qasim on trucks to the refinery at Gadani, but now it wanted to avoid transportation cost by building a floating jetty. The arrival of oil tankers from sea could also pose a health and environmental hazard. The speaker recently apprised Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani of the concerns of the people of his constituency —Lasbela — and sought his intervention before these two projects were realised, ignoring the local population and the possible health and environmental hazards. Raisani assured the speaker that genuine concerns would be addressed well in time. Bhootani, however, feared despite the chief minister’s assurance, things were moving at a fast speed. He is considering moving a petition in a superior court in case the status quo as feared was maintained. Already, despite their hue and cry, the speaker said a no-objection certificate had been issued to the AES Pakistan Limited for the proposed power plant, which, he demanded, must be cancelled and to the oil refinery be issued only after the local population and environment-related matters were duly addressed. He noted that the local people had a bitter experience in the past, as even after the inception of the Hubco Power Plant, the local population was completely ignored in terms of social services and job opportunities. The speaker said not a single power unit was being supplied to the local people, whereas they were inhaling harmful gases, emitting from the plant. “I wonder on what bases, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Land Acquisition Department will be issuing NoC to these firms without hearing the local population,” he said. He said they would oppose the proposed projects at every forum and the lawmakers from Balochistan had already decided to raise it on the floor of the Senate, as the ancestral land of the locals was being acquired without their consent. The speaker was confident that the government would ultimately swing into action to safeguard their interests, saying they were not opposed to development and uplift projects, but these must not be at the cost of the local population’s interests and environment.