Pakistan allows Karachi nuclear plant construction ignoring concerns

Karachi,20/6: Energy-starved Pakistan has approved the construction of two China-assisted nuclear power plants near Karachi, ignoring concerns of civil society groups over the project’s proximity to the country’s biggest city and a lack of proper evacuation plan in case of emergency.

Sindh Environmental Protection Agency has accorded the approval to the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) report and allowed its construction at Paradise Point, Dawn reported on Saturday. The Paradise Point — an earthquake-prone seafront vulnerable to tsunamis — is a popular beach on the outskirts of the Karachi, whose population has doubled in just the past two decades to more than 20 million.

The project -— K-2 and K-3 nuclear power plants of 1,100MW each -— is to be built by a Chinese company while the government agency involved in the project is the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC).

The representatives of civil society organisations have publicly raised a number of reservations over the construction of the twin nuclear power plants. The concerns ranged from the close proximity of the project to the city, failure of the PAEC to conduct a fresh EIA, to the lack of a proper evacuation plan in case of an emergency.

The EIA report of the PAEC has restricted the evacuation plan to only 5 kilometres, though critics of the project are of the opinion that the entire city is at a risk of nuclear radiation exposure given the fact that the wind blows from the plant’s site to Karachi most part of the year.

The environmental agency, however, has allowed the PAEC to build the project at Paradise Point, without asking the commission to increase the area in the evacuation plan. The EIA report was approved following a public hearing which was held on the orders of the Sindh High Court, which had stayed the construction of the project last year. Pakistan has three operative nuclear power plants, including the Canadian-built reactor in Karachi.

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