Islamabad (October 18, 2018): The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to probe Thar underground coal gasification project and ordered NAB To seek forensic report within 15 days.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar heard the suo motu case regarding Thar coal power project. Prominent scientist and chairman of Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) project in Thar Dr Samar Mubarakmand appeared in court for the hearing.
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During the proceedings, the top judge said that amount of Rs4 billion was distributed on the claim of one scientist, adding that Pakistan cannot bear this much loss. He directed the auditor general to submitted report regarding the case after every 15 days.
The CJP also sought reply from chairman of Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) project in Thar Dr Samar Mubarakmand, federal and Sindh governments and directed to take pictures of the project material as a record.
During the hearing, the chief justice remarked, “No corruption was done in this project.”
However, court adviser Salman Akram Raja informed the bench, “The project’s feasibility report was not clear. It was said that 10,000MW will be produced for 30 years but according to experts the project will lower underground water reserves and affect the environment.”
Raja continued, “One committee has said that this is a failed project and more funds should not be allocated for it. Those who approved Mubarakmand’s project should have also looked into it.”At this, the chief justice said, “For the first time I realised what a billion is. Billions of rupees were spent like [dried] leaves fly from a tree.”
“Rs3.8 million have already been spent on this project and who is responsible for this? Does Dr Mubarakmand have to pay this money?” he asked.
Justice Nisar further questioned the court adviser, “Where did Dr Mubarakmand’s tall claims go? Should this matter not be sent to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) or should a fresh investigation be initiated?”
“A lot of noise was created over the project that something not done by any scientist before was done this time,” the chief justice said. “A 100MW project is not even generating 3MW of electricity.”The chief justice further said, “Pakistan is a poor country and is this how we will waste our money? There are two ways of producing electricity from Thar underground coal gasification project — either through coal or by operating the way plants set-up on the ports do.”
NAB prosecutor Asghar Haider then submitted a report regarding the projects before the bench. “According to engineers, it is not possible to generate electricity from underground coal gasification.”
Court advisers Raja and Shehzad Elahi also submitted their recommendations following which the chief justice asked about “the positions of the federal and Sindh governments.”
The advocate general Sindh then informed the court, “The project was entirely funded by the federal government and only the land belongs to the Sindh government.”Dr Mubarakmand then said, “The project did not cause any environmental degradation. An Australian company was also working on an underground gasification project and lawyers cannot judge this project.”
“I knew you would say this,” Justice Nisar said in response to Dr Mubarakmand. “When you made these claims, they were romanticised and it was said that free electricity will be provided but the national exchequer suffered a loss of Rs4 billion.”
He also directed concerned authorities to take steps on war footing for provision of food and water in Tharparkar. Utilize all the resources to check the mortality rate of infants in the district, he ordered.
Earlier, SC had rejected Sindh government report on infants’ death in Tharparkar and ordered to dispatch truckloads of food and water for the drought-hit populace.
Justice Saqib reprimanded Sindh government and served notices on Chief Secretary, health minister and Population Welfare Department.
He also directed the provincial government to submit recommendations for improvements of dismal situation of the hospitals.