Quetta, May 25: While terming the proposed TAPI pipeline a good omen for development of the province, the Balochistan Govrnment has said that it will do its best to ensure complete safety of the concerned local communities-on whose land pipeline corridor will pass through-while on the same time these communities of Balochistan would also become ultimate beneficiaries of the project.
The assurance to this effect came from Balochistan Environment Secretary Abdul Saboor Kakar as he spoke as being the chief guest at the provincial level scoping workshop held here as part of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) study being conducted for Pakistan-section of the proposed TAPI gas pipeline. M/s. Environmental Management Consultants (EMC) Pakistan organized the workshop as being the local associate of international consortium of consultants M/s. MAB, M/s. Naftec and M/s. Jacobs working on ESIA of total 1,814 kilometres-long Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project.
“This project will establish a communication link between us and the Central Asian Republics so it has to be built for our energy requirements but at the same time it should be constructed in the manner that our local communities will remain fully safe,” said Balochistan Environment secretary on the occasion.
He said the best way to mitigate negative social and environmental impacts of the pipeline project was to ensure tree plantation and greenery all along the route of gas pipeline corridor that would pass through Balochistan. “One way of generating livelihood for people of local communities is to establish nurseries of local species of plants and trees all along the corridor route of TAPI pipeline in Balochistan,” he said.
He said that a sizable portion of the local communities along the proposed route of TAPI in Balochistan had to depend upon livestock rearing as being the sole mean of their livelihood so the construction of gas pipeline should fully ensure the protection of grazing areas for the farm animals.
He said that gas pipeline project should be built in a manner that it would have an inter-connection with existing or under-construction trade and communication corridors in the province as part of CPEC so to make this project fully secure.
He said it was preferable that construction of gas pipeline project should envisage a proper CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiative for local communities. Such an investment from proponents of the project should lead to the launching of projects related to water supply, health, and education services for the benefit of impoverished local people.
“It is my suggestion that instead of paying land acquisition compensation to the affected people who don’t have the record of rights of their land, the same amount should be invested to launch projects of collective welfare in the area,” said the Balochistan secretary.
He said that land compensation given without presentation of proper record of rights only led to protracted legal and court battles among rival members of the family claiming ownership of the same piece of native land. “So instead of paying compensation in such cases, which would only generate conflict over ownership of the land, it is better to invest on projects of collective welfare in the affected areas,” he said.
He said that project should also take into account seismic fault lines, which ran all along the proposed corridor route of TAPI project in Balochistan.
Tariq Zehri, director-general of Balchistan Environmental Protection Agency, said that construction of TAPI project should ensure plantation of at least 100 million trees all along the proposed pipeline corridor, which would pass through Balochistan.
He said that construction of the project as a by-product should ensure socio-economic empowerment of local communities especially that of women. “The more you will invest on human resource development of local communities the more you will render this project safe and secured,” he said.
He said that gas pipeline project should evolve its own fire-fighting and emergency response system all along its route in Balochistan as in no way the regular fire brigade service of the local municipalities could be relied upon in case of any eventuality.
He said that pipeline project should have its own proper waste disposal system to minimize damage to the land and physical environment of the selected areas of Balochistan.
Asif Shuja Khan, former DG of Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency who now serves as chief operating officer of EMC Pakistan, informed the audience that out of 825 kilometres Pakistan section of TAPI pipeline, 400 km-portion of the project would pass through Balochistan.
"The pipeline will enter at Pakistan-Afghanistan border through Chaman in Balochistan, which will end at Pakistan-India border near Fazilka in Punjab. The route of the pipeline will include Chaman, Killa Abdullah, Pishin, Ziarat, Loralai, and Musakhel areas of Balochistan", he said.
Syed Nadeem Arif, managing director of EMC Pakistan, informed the audience that four separate ESIA studies were being undertaken for the TAPI project one each for Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
He said that ESIA of the project would comply with local and international environmental standards including the regulations set by leading global financial institutions to assess the environmental, socio-economic, and community health components of major developmental projects. This among other regulations will also include performance standards of International Finance Corporation.
Saquib Ejaz Hussain, project manager ESIA study from EMC Pakistan, said that route of the TAPI project would be finalized once the ESIA study report would be duly submitted to the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan later this year.
"Balochistan will not be affected by the route of Pipeline as compared to Punjab due to scattered nature of the population of the province. Our aim is to minimize the displacement of population. According to the initial assessment, only 20 building structures in Balochistan will come across the route of the Gas pipeline. Pipeline route will be diverted from Ziarat to save Juniper Forest there", he said.