Thar`s dark nemesis

Thar`s dark nemesis THE Pakistan government has ambitious plans to tap coal reserves under the vast expanses of the Thar desert, but environmentalists warn that unfettered development could do more.harm. than good. In its enthusiasm to capitalise on the interest shown by foreign investors in cheaply a'v:ilable coal, the government is completely ignoring environ- mental issues.

Engineers say open pit or strip mining is the only type of mining technically feasible in the region; unfortunately, they can also destroy the landscape, vegetation and habitat by s removing precious topsoil. Besides, coal-fired thermal plants are known to be among the environmentally most harmful of power options.

Since a sizeable portion of the coal reserves are located below permanent human settlements and archaeological sites, environmentalists and conservationists fear largescale displacement of the population and possible destruction of historical monuments.