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In Pakistan's bleak Thar desert, the roar of trucks is constant at a massive Chinese-backed coal power project the government sees as an answer to chronic energy shortages, but which activists warn is an environmental disaster.
Machines are running round the clock to finish the mine and coal power plant, a flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) plan that has seen Beijing provide billions of dollars in financing to its southwestern neighbour.
Infrastructure - Power - Country - Blackouts - Citizens
Much of it is for infrastructure and power in a country where blackouts have infuriated citizens and hamstrung the economy for years.
And while coal is going out of vogue in most other parts of the world because of its environmental impact, it will fuel nine of the 17 proposed CPEC power plants.
Thar - Sindh - Province - Sits - Tonnes
The one in Thar in southern Sindh province sits atop 175 billion tonnes of coal—one of the largest deposits in the world. Discovered in 1992, it has remained unexploited until now, but is expected to yield 3.8 million tonnes a year when fully operational.
A few kilometres away, towering chimneys emerge from the sand dunes as Pakistani and Chinese workers toil away on a 660-megawatt power plant which will burn coal from the mine.
Years - Power - Infrastructure - Pakistani - Leaders
After struggling for years to upgrade its power infrastructure, Pakistani leaders have touted CPEC as a "game changer" that will help lift the ailing economy, dismissing concerns that Chinese financing will lead to unsustainable debts and that the projects are boosting Beijing's interests at Islamabad's expense.
"We are five months ahead of schedule," said Shams Shaikh, director-general of the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), a joint China-Pakistan venture that has invested around 1.7 billion euros ($1.9 billion) in the Thar mine-and-plant project.
Experts - Site - MW - Electricity - Years—a
Experts say the site should be able to produce 200,000 MW of electricity over the next hundred years—a boon for the energy-starved country where...
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