Talk24 Is Private sector playing its role in efficient utilization of scarce water resources in Sindh?

Wednesday, 19 September 2018


Tharparkar being a water scarce region has no sustainable water source available to ensure continuous supply of water for power plant operations. Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) is involved in developing Thar Coal Development Project along with lignite coal mine that will supply coal to Coal Fired Power Plants in Sindh. SECMC makes use of saline water that has been treated in two phases; through biological process implementing MBR Technology to ensure water meets the RO plant feed quality and through Reverse Osmosis Plant. Additional SECMC initiatives include efficient usage through recycling and reusing of wastewater at Engro Powergen Thar ltd. (EPTL) for various activities such as cooling tower blowdown, maximize utilization of water at plant and sprinkling at coal yard and ash yard.

LEAD Pakistan hosted an interactive session on as part of its LEADING Perspectives series.

The guest speaker, Mr. Abul Fazal Rizvi, focused his talk on the effective and efficient use of wastewater keeping in mind the limited water resources available in lower riparian areas.

Mr. Abul Fazal Rizvi holds a masters degree in mechanical engineering from Kansas State University, USA. With 21 years of experience in engineering design, maintenance and project management, he joined Sindh Engro Coal Mining co. in 2012 and is currently leading the Thar Coal Mining Project in Block – II as Chief Operating Officer.

Thar Coal Development Project

The Thar Engro Coal Power Project (Thar-ll) is a coal-fired power plant under construction in Tharparkar District, Sindh. The project is being developed as part of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (a joint venture between the government of Sindh and Engro Corporation) and China Machinery Engineering Corporation in the Thar Block-II of the Thar Coalfield.

Thar Coal was discovered by GSP (Geological Survey of Pakistan) in 1992. In 2009, the government of Sindh initiated an ICB process to select a private sector partner for development of coal reserves in Thar Coal Block II. Hence Engro Energy Ltd & GOS entered a Joint Venture Agreement (JVA). Bankable Feasibility Study (BFS) was conducted, which concluded that the project is technically, commercially, environmentally and socially feasible so in 2013 SECMC was issued a 30 year mining lease of Block II. In 2014, both mine and Power Projects were included as China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Early Harvest Projects.

The first phase of the project will yield 660 megawatts of electricity and an adjoining open cast coal mine capable of producing up to 3.8 million tons of coal per year. The first phase is expected to be completed by December 2018 at a cost of approximately $3 billion.

Water Requirements of the Thar Power Plant

Thermal fuel based power plants require a steady supply of water for cooling & steam generation. For a For a 330MW Coal Fired Power Plant in Thar, 8.75 cusecs of Treated Water is required, which is provided by two main sources.

LBOD Water Supply Scheme

Government of Sindh, as part of infrastructure development for Thar Coalfields, is constructing the Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) which is designed to supply 35 Cusecs of treated water to Thar coal based power plants. The water from the channels is routed to Nabisar where the Reverse Osmosis (RO) Treatment plant is located.

Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) will be installed as a pretreatment system at the Nabisar RO Plant. MBR is the combination of a membrane process like microfiltration or ultrafiltration with a biological wastewater treatment process and the area required to build MBR system is nearly 50% less than its alternative, Conventional Activated Sludge (CAS) systems. The waste produce by MBR is also relatively lower as compared to CAS Process. Nabisar RO Plant has a capacity to produce 24 million gallons per day of treated water which will cater to the water requirement of Thar Block-II IPPs.

Ground Water Extraction and Utilization

Ground Water of Thar Coal Field Block II comprises of Three Aquifers – Dune Sand Aquifer (located at a depth of 50m to 60m), Coal Seam Roof Aquifer (depth of 120m), and Coal Seam Floor Aquifer (depth of 180m to 190m). A Groundwater model, established by RWE based on China Northeast Coalfield Geological Survey Bureau (NECB report) to predict the dewatering volumes necessary for safe mining conditions and number of dewatering wells to be installed, was revised in 2013 which gave annual discharge volumes of 30 million m3 to keep the mine dry, and 90% of the total volume of ground water pumped from Coal seam Floor Aquifer.

Ground water levels are monitored through various boreholes ranging in depth from Dune sand to floor aquifer depth. A third party consultant GEMS is also engaged in monitoring the levels and parameters of ground water on a monthly basis. The mine dewatering volume is approximately 87,000 m3/day, from which 55,000 is expected to be utilized by the plant, and 2,400 for sprinkling purposes in the Block II vicinity to minimize dust build up. The rest of the water is being utilized for the needs of the local water.

Development initiatives as a result of the power plant

Groundwater is being utilized in several beneficial projects that ranging from agriculture to fish farming besides domestic use.

Gorano Reservoir

The Gorano Reservoir is a natural depression with the capacity to hold 30 million m3. A 26 km 50 Cusesc pipeline from Block-II Mine drains the extracted ground water into this reservoir. Reservoir currently sustains more than 100,000 fish and is source of water to nearby fields for bio-saline agriculture.

Bio-saline Agriculture

Three separate projects have been initiated to utilize underground water from mine for Bio-saline Agriculture, for crop cultivation, fodder plantation and fish farming. So far the projects have yielded positive results with successful cultivation of cash crops such as bajra and cotton, and vegetables such as spinach and lady finger. The ongoing animal feeding trials are also showing positive signs in term of meat productivity.

Thar Million Trees Project

The Thar Million Tree Project is the development of the Development of the largest public-private sector nursery in Sindh with the involvement of the entire Thar Project team and the local community. The project is adopting innovative research in field of forestry to maximize the survival and minimize the water utilization and 70,000 saplings have been planted till date.

Drinking Water Facilities

All the RO plants in the Thar Block-II are being taken over by Thar foundation to provide safe drinking water to the local community of the drought stricken region. SECMS has also installed 3 Pilot Scale Solar Distillation Plates which are currently under testing phase. Once proved, these plates will be beneficial to provide drinking water in villages where installation of RO Plants is not feasible due to low population.


The Thar Coal Development Project is not only aiming to counter Pakistan’s energy crisis, it has also stimulated substantial development in the severely drought stricken region of Tharparkar. With its innovative utilization of excess water and pilot projects for bio-saline agriculture and forestry, this project has highlighted the ways to efficiently utilize wastewater in water scarce lower riparian areas for both energy production and local development, and the role the private sector can play in this space.

List of Participants

Uzbek Embassy (Hamza Zahid); SDPI (Shafqat Kakakhel); Ministry of Law and Justice (Syed Naeem Bukhari); AURDC (Sher Nabi); Ministry of Climate Change (S. M. Nasir); HelpAge International (Saviba Naeem); QAU (Umer Ali); Water Environment Forum (Nisar A. Memon); AWF pvt ltd (M Haris Malik); CDA (Shahid Sohail); CRC (Malte Schimmel); PerfectCloud (Mujtaba Sarafaraz); Sarfaraz Ahmed – consultant/activist; Gohar Ali – GIS Specialist; Asif Khan - Water and Climate Change Expert