PESHAWAR, Pakistan: “Though I have spent years mining coal, I am totally unaware of the damages caused by my profession. I never knew that the work I am dealing with is heating up the earth” said 40-years-old Umar Zeb, who has been in the business of extracting coal from the mines for the last 20 years.
Hailing from Shangla district of Pakistan’s northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa(KP), Zeb started his career as a coal miner when he was 20 and now supervises over 300 labours working in the mines of Dara Adam Khel region of the province.
In KP’s province, according to Zeb, over 70% of the coal miners come from Shangla district where families are associated with the coal mining business for the last several decades.
These labours are time and again trained by either the government or by non-government organizations related to safety and health issues while working in the mines. Zeb said that his team was trained a couple of months ago by a private rights campaign group.
Zeb was aware of placing his life at risk through his work. the risk he was taking with regards to his health and life was aware of the health hazards caused by his profession and the risk he had never heard during his entire career was the impact of coal mines extraction and the alarming trend of using fossil fuels for different purposes.
“Climate Change and fossil fuels?” he wondered. As it was for the first time he was coming across these words while he was interviewed for this article.
Like Zeb, hundreds of thousands of coal miners — both labors and contractors -working in different regions of the province — are unaware of the fact that fossil fuels are raising up the temperature of the earth due to excessive emission of carbon from coal burning.
According to the government estimates for 2011-12, coal mine constitutes 6.7% of the primary energy supplies sources in Pakistan while total coal resource of Pakistan is estimated to be 186 billion tonnes. The coal resource in Thar district of Sindh province in Pakistan is 5th largest coalfield in the world.
In Pakistan, 54% of the coal is used in cement and related industry while over 38% of the total 7.72 million tonnes annually is used in brick kilns while the rest of coal is used by coke use and power sector.
Experts believe that awareness among coal miners and contractors can help to reduce carbon emission or at least can help to decrease the fossil fuels extraction.
Dr. Shafiqu Rehman is an expert on environmental issues who teaches environment subject in Pakistan’s Peshawar University for over three decades. Rehman feels that the mineworkers cannot be blamed for the mess created by carbon across the globe.
However, he thinks the government and department concerned are needed to make them aware about the hurdles of fossil fuels and extracting mines from the mountains.
Linking economics with the mining business, Rehman thinks the debate is initiated across the globe that if the mining business has more money then why the business should be discouraged.
“These coal miners paltry sum of amounts ( give an estimate how much they earn per day or month) end meet and they shouldn’t be blamed for heating up the environment. It’s actually because of the big fishes across the world who didn’t want to discourage the mining business.”
He feels connecting the idea of reducing carbon emissions should be linked with religion for people to work on it actively. When asked if the awareness among the coal miners can help reduce the carbon emission, Rehman said I do think it would help particularly if it could be connected with religion.
“In religion, harming others is considered a sin so if these coal miners and particularly the big contractors become aware of the fact that fossil fuels are harming the entire world, then it may sensitize the contractors to stop the business at some stage of life, he tells The Pakistan Inquirer.
He said coal miners are helpless and it is always really hard for anyone to quit a business who is associated with it for the last several decades.
However, Rehman said the government can go for alternative energy resources and reduce the use of fossil fuels for energy consumption.
Disturbing greenhouse effect mechanism
Amar Guriro is a Pakistani journalist covering the environment for the last so many years. Speaking on how the carbon affects climate, he said there is a layer of gases above the earth’s surface at around 32 kilometres that makes greenhouse effect.
Gurio said the climate crises we see in the world is owing to the disturbance of the greenhouse effect.
“The greenhouse gases are in set quantity but the human actions like burning carbon is either decreasing or increasing the quantity of that gases’ layer increasing the earth’s temperature, explains Guriro, adding, world are coming out burning fossil fuels and going for renewable energy resources.