PESHAWAR/ DI KHAN: The war-battered FATA region can be turned into a developed part of Pakistan the way the state of Qatar has been developed if the country effectively taps its over 20 trillion cubic feet of gas and another 20 million barrels of crude oil reserves for which hectic efforts are underway for exploration and drilling of hydrocarbon reserves, said oil and gas director, FATA Development Authority (FDA) at the FATA Secretariat on Wednesday.In his exclusive chat with Daily Times, Azhar Mahboob, a petroleum geologist, said: “FATA could be developed the way the state of Qatar got developed by successfully tapping its natural resources.”He said that exploration and production companies invested heavily in FATA following active role by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor of, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, FDA and law enforcement agencies, which paved way for enhanced security measures.He said that a number of companies were involved in exploration and drilling activities in parts of tribal and semi-tribal regions. “One exploration leased block takes eight to ten years to get matured or start production,” he remarked.He recalled that a number of oil and gas companies, including Oil and Gas Development Corporation Limited (OGDCL), Al-Hajj Enterprises Pvt Ltd, BGP (Pakistan), Xian Senshe, Geofizyka Krakow, Ocean Pakistan Ltd, Mari Petroleum Company Ltd (MPCL) and MOL (Pakistan) during the last one year had launched exploration activities in different agencies, where they had also established base camps and fly camps in their respective areas of investigation.He said exploration and production (E&P) companies had established drinking water facilities in their respective areas, besides awarding labour food and water, and fuel contracts to the locals.He said that the companies had employed as many as 2,200 skilled and unskilled locals in their respective activities. “FATA or Pakistani tribal region is a fertile zone for natural resources,” the geologist added. When contacted for comments, Waseem Ahmad, assistant director research and development and a senior geologist, said that the government should open technical schools, colleges and even universities to ensure provision of facilities to the region’s people.“By the end of next year, oil and gas production will be started as a seismic survey in two blocks has been completed,” he noted.Offering minute details of the oil and gas exploratory process, Azhar said after successful completion of surface geological mapping and structural analysis in various blocks in FATA, 2D Seismic Data Acquisition (identification of sub-surface geological strata and structures) had been completed in Latambar Block (a locality in FR Bannu), Kohat Block (FR Peshawar, FR Kohat and Lower Orakzai Agency) by the OGDCL and Baska North Block (FR Dera, Ismail, Khan and South Waziristan Agency) by Al-Hajj Enterprise Pvt Ltd (AEPL).For the first time in the history of the tribal belt, he said that more than $30 million had been invested by various exploration and production companies for drilling of oil and gas reserves there.“So far, we have attracted investment to the tune of $30 million to exploit the rich natural resources,” he noted.He said that following encouraging results, investors were now planning for drilling of exploratory wells in their particular blocks.Similarly, he said that the MOL had completed surface geological mapping and gravity survey in Tal Block (North Waziristan Agency and FR Bannu) and now scheduling 2D Seismic survey.“We expect drilling of first exploratory well in FATA from March next year,” he added. He said that BGP (Pakistan), a contractor of OGDCL, had completed 20% of the total planned 2D Seismic survey in Wali block, falling in FR Tank, FR Lakki Marwat and South Waziristan Agency.In addition, he said the OGFU had examined and reviewed the initial environmental examination (IEE) reports of the Tirah and Orakzai blocks and put forth certain recommendations and suggestions for issuance of no objection certificates from the Environmental Protection Agency.He said these companies had also established free medical camps in their areas and distributed free medicines among locals.Waseem said if royalty and production bonus were distributed it would bring tangible positive changes to the lives of tribal masses. “FATA students should be given special scholarships,” he added.“There is a dire need to train FATA students in technical jobs related to oil and gas activities. They need to be trained for skilled jobs keeping in view the changing trends in the tribal belt,” he added. Published in Daily Times, October 5th 2017.