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Feature: CPEC's eco-friendly powerplant sets standard for environmental responsibility in Pakistan

Updated: July 1, 2024 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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By Misbah Saba Malik

ISLAMABAD, June 30 (Xinhua) -- As the June sun waned behind clouds and a gentle breeze whispered across a small lake in Pakistan's east Sahiwal district, ducks emerged with renewed vitality, gliding effortlessly through the cool water, and the air, alive with rustling leaves and distant bird calls, mingled with the sweet scent of blooming flowers.

The lake, the trees whirling in the wind behind it, and the hundreds of flower beds beside them are part of the 1,320-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Sahiwal district of Pakistan's east Punjab province, constructed and being operated by a Chinese company under the framework of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Launched in 2013, the CPEC, a flagship project of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is a corridor linking Gwadar Port in southwest Pakistan's Balochistan province with Kashgar in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which highlights energy, transport, and industrial cooperation in the first phase, while the new phase expands to the fields of agriculture and livelihood.

As a major CPEC investment, the plant has significantly improved the lives of Pakistanis since its 2017 inception. Before it joined the national grid, the country endured up to 18-hour power outages during summer, with temperatures reaching 50 degrees Celsius in some areas.

The power plant exemplifies strict adherence to the BRI's environmental protection policy, and by prioritizing green development and following international environmental standards, it emphasizes ecological civilization and provides clean energy.

In a conversation with Xinhua, Li Xin, chief executive officer of the power plant's operator, Huaneng Sahiwal Power Company, said that the plant has a policy to lessen the environmental impact of coal-fired power plants.

"This commitment is evident in the investments in ultra-low emission technology to capture dust and pollutants installed at the plant, ensuring not only Pakistan's but also the world's environmental regulations by implementing cleaner coal technologies," he added.

The plant efficiently sources high-net calorific value coal from the local market. Combined with advanced supercritical technology, this enables the plant to generate power with minimal fuel consumption and negligible emissions, he said.

Talking to Xinhua, Muhammad Nazim, manager of the health and safety engineering department of the plant, said that they have implemented several environmentally friendly measures, despite the typical challenges associated with coal-fired operations.

The plant has employed flue gas desulfurization systems and low-NOx burners to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, which are known to impair air quality, he said, adding that the commitment to emissions reduction aligns with global sustainability efforts and highlights the plant's role in combating climate change.

"The Sahiwal Power Plant shows that industrialization can coexist with environmental conservation. By using advanced technologies, it demonstrates that large-scale energy projects can boost economic development while protecting the environment. This plant is a prime example of the benefits of international cooperation for national progress," he added.

The plant has also undertaken measures to improve the local ecological environment, planting over 70,000 trees and developing 250,000 square meters of green spaces. These efforts support local flora and fauna, help absorb carbon dioxide, and play a crucial role in combating climate change.

Local environment officials told Xinhua that they enforce strict criteria for monitoring emissions, within the vicinity of the plant and in the surrounding areas.

"The power plant submits records of their emissions to us on a monthly basis, and our mobile lab has also made several surprise visits to the power plant. Every time, the emissions are well below the national standards," said the official from the Environmental Protection Department.

The powerplant is nestled in the middle of agricultural land surrounded by orchards of guava and seasonal crops and vegetables.

Talking to Xinhua, Mubashir Hasnain, a student of environmental sciences residing near the plant, said that this year, farmers had a bumper wheat crop, as they do every year, indicating that the plant has had no adverse effects on the atmosphere or crops.

"Crops thrive only when stringent environmental measures are enforced, and the lush green fields surrounding the plant, along with the fruit orchards in nearby villages, are evidence that the plant is not only alleviating our lives by eliminating power outages but also acting as our cherished green ally," he added. 

Editor: Yang Linlin