Pakistan: China-Pakistan Green Economic Corridor replaces coal with hydropower, but hydro projects create risks for environment and communities
"Scrapping imported coal projects, Pakistan fails to let go of local lignite" 23 December 2020
Pakistan’s contribution was one of the few bright spots at the recently concluded virtual Climate Ambition Summit. Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that two major coal projects would be scrapped and declared the country will have no more “power based on coal” but instead build more hydropower.
However, it became quickly apparent that Khan’s statement will not affect over 7,000 MW of coal power that Pakistan has recently built or which is in the pipeline under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. The two coal power projects mentioned had already been scrapped because of an earlier moratorium on using imported coal. [...]
There was a grim air at the summit, organised by the UK and France in partnership with Italy, Chile and the UN. COP26 President, UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma, reminded everyone that the world is still not on track to fulfil the 2015 Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to 2C. But there was no sense of a breakthrough on the horizon.
Malik Amin Aslam, minister and adviser to the prime minister on climate change, elaborated that the two projects were those using imported coal at Muzaffargarh and Rahim Yar Khan. Both were part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
“These have been shelved, and 3,700 MW of hydro projects have been signed instead, moving towards China Pakistan-Green-Economic Corridor,” Aslam told The Third Pole, underlining the addition of ‘green’ to the CPEC.
Discarded early last year, the adviser said the government “was walking the talk” by shifting from coal to hydropower.
The hydro projects include the 1,124 MW plant at Kohala, the 884 MW plant at Suki Kinari and the 720 MW plant at Karot. These were in addition to the bigger ones like the Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand hydro projects, said Aslam. Despite being labelled “green” large hydropower brings its own set of environmental issues, from damage to rivers and ecosystems, disruption of water and sediment flow downstream and large-scale methane emissions from reservoirs.