Thar will be a major air pollutant, mercury and CO2 emission hotspot in South, according to Asia Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air’s (CREA). Moreover, the cumulative effects of mining and production will produce 29,000 deaths directly attributable to air pollution resulting from coal activities in the area. Other significant public health impacts include significant increases in asthma, pre-term births, and disabilities associated with diabetes, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Meanwhile, 1400kg of mercury per year is expected to be deposited from the nine coal plants studied. 320kg of this will be deposited in the immediate vicinity, a massive public health risk to the 100,000 indigenous people living in the project areas. The study examined Coal Block’s One, Two and Six in Thar, using data provided by companies responsible for mining and power production to reach these conclusions as best case scenarios. The study suggested it can even be worse. The modeling of the study is drawn from the Environment Impact Assessment report submitted to the government during the planning for these projects. It used lowest pollution ranges submitted and assumes that quality standards are maintained in the operating of mines and plants. The report also indicates a range of failures by the Environmental Agencies in assessing the EIA’s, through incompetence or even criminal neglect or both. The EIA report failed to take into account mercury pollution perhaps the most dangerous pollutant in coal power production, according to the CREA report. The EIA also misrepresented compliance with air pollution standards. In actuality they breached the regulatory standards of the Sindh Government, the WHO and the IFC. The Environmental Agency fails to identify this breach. Despite all this happening in the backyard, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan boasts about Clean Green Pakistan initiative. On the basis of the finding of the research report, the apparently commendable Clean Green Pakistan is nothing more than an eyewash. In news report published in The News, Special Assistant to PM on Power Tabish Gauhar confirmed that Hubco will provide 600MW of cheaper electricity to K-Electric by 2024 based on Thar coal. But two more studies say massive build-up of coal power projects in Thar while ignoring renewable energy both at policy and operational level have been intensifying Pakistan’s financial burden amidst the economic downturn induced by COVID-19. High capacity payments to thermal and coal power generators coupled with surplus installed generation capacity have been adding to increasing cost of electricity and worsening power sector’s circular debt, state the studies conducted by Institute for Energy Economic and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and World Wind Energy Association (WWEA). The study underlined the significance of using the renewable energy of Sindh as the cheapest and the most cost competitive source of power that does not receive any capacity payments. Simon Nicholas, author of IEEFA’s study titled ‘Thar Coal: Locking Pakistan into Unsustainable Capacity Payments’, said the government of Pakistan had already realized the gravity of capacity payment issue and raised it with the government of China, which had been sponsoring coal power projects in the country under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “Premier Imran Khan has noted that total capacity payments to power generators could reach an entirely unsustainable Rs1.5 trillion ($9bn) in the next few years. The government of Pakistan has now asked China for easier repayment terms on 12GW of CPEC power projects totaling US$30bn of investment,” he said. Despite the gravity of capacity payments, two more coal power projects in Thar, namely Thar Energy Limited and Shanghai Electric had reached financial close in the current years. These projects will not only receive capacity payments but also intensify the issue of overcapacity afflicting the power sector before the outbreak of pandemic. Zeeshan Ashfaq, author of WWEA study titled, ‘Fostering Renewable Energy Development in Sindh: Identification of Impediments and the Road Ahead’, said weak grid infrastructure; limited ability of provincial government, lack of effective coordination mechanisms; and arbitrariness in regulatory and policy decisions were hampering growth of renewables in Sindh. He said Sindh, where 72% of existing solar and wind power projects of the country were located, had an immense potential for development of renewables. However, due to centralized governance of power sector in the country, the potential of the province for renewables was not being realized. In December 2017, the cabinet committee on energy’s decision stopped renewable energy projects, including the ones initiated by Sindh under feed-in-tariff framework, while allowing the coal and RLNG based plants to be developed. He urged the Council of Common Interests to act proactively for enhanced coordination between the federal and provincial governments on renewable energy policy, planning and development. Besides, he demanded the Sindh government to formulate provincial renewable energy policy, in line with its mandate and the federal Alternative Renewable Energy (ARE) Policy-2019. Meanwhile, in another of its effort to tackle climate change, Prime Minister Imran Khan has also set an ambitious target to electrify 30% of vehicles on Pakistani roads by the year 2030. According to a report, pollution from traffic accounts for 42% of the total pollution produced by the country. But the big question is, will the electric cars be charging from electricity produced through coal in Thar? Will it not then be a zero sum game?