THIS refers to the news item ‘Wildlife Department’s comments sought in `hazardous` reservoirs shifting case’. Construction of Gorano reservoir by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Co in Block II of Thar Coalfield is sheer violation of guidelines set by international development agencies.
First, work on the reservoir has been carried out without environmental and social impact assessment. Sindh government as a partner of Sindh Thar Coal Mining Co or outside of it has not conducted environment impact assessment of the project. Thus, constructing such big reservoir is illegal.
Further, no legal document of Thar Coal Block II mining project conducted by Engro mentions Gorano reservoir.
Second, project executing agency must take mandatory initiatives which include, but are not limited to developing grievances redress mechanism and resettlement plan.
Third, it is claimed that large parts of land used in Gorano reservoir are not owned by settlers; therefore, it is entitled to use the land without buying land from them.
Such a claim does not hold moral and legal weight on two grounds. One, grazing land historically is owned by the settlers in a joint way. Two, even though they do not hold entitlements, their customary land rights are protected under international human rights laws, especially in FAO voluntary guidelines on responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security.
Three, in reservoir areas, there are many species of biodiversity which are listed under IUCN Red List 2010. Hurting these species will be a violation of many international biodiversity laws.