The extraction of the kaolin, or china clay, from across the Parkar region of Tharparkar district in Sindh has continued to create fatal environmental hazardous for people living in the region — as miners engaged in this lucrative business have failed to take proper protective measures during the massive exercise.
Many ‘influential figures’ have received leases to extract china clay, which is used to manufacture porcelain and china, and more lucratively used to make paper, rubber, paint, and many other product. After granite, china clay is considered to be the most important mineral of this region.
However, mining of china clay creates serious environmental hazards, and mine owners pay little heed to the disastrous effects, despite massive protests and subsequent warnings issued by the government
Flouting strict warnings from the National Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, miners have neither shifted their activities far away from Nagarparkar town and other human settlements nor have they seemed to adopt precautionary measures to avoid polluting the area. The extraction pollutes the local water, which during monsoon season flow towards the small dams constructed by local people and Sindh government to store rainwater from the Karoonjhar hills.
People living close to these mining operations complain of skin disease, respiratory issues and other health complications due to the dust and dangerous chemicals drudged up during mining.
Speaking to the Friday Times, local residents Mohammad Saleem Khoso, Javed Samoon, and Dileep complained that a number of children and cattle heads often fell into the mining ditches and lost their lives. They said that no actions had so far been taken against any of the owners of the mines.
“The miners, with the help of the tractors and other machinery, often extract the clay and leave behind the deep ditches. When [the ditches] get filled with rainwater, they become traps for both humans and livestock who fall and die. There are no rescue efforts in the remote parts,” they explained.
Residents have demanded the authorities to come up with the clear policies and plans for extraction of the main minerals of the desert district, including china clay, coal, granite, and salt. They lamented that locals were not receiving any gain, profit or royalty from this from the several hundred mines operating in the area.
Leaders of Karoonjhar Sujag Forum Allah Rakhio Khoso, Zulfika Alil, Sagir Khaskheli, and Ghulam Mustafa Dal formed their organization to protect the hills and its precious fauna, flora and minerals. The leaders deplored that though granite extraction had stopped after government orders, including from the Mines and Mineral Development Department Government of Sindh, the activities of the clay miners had subsequently increased manifold, with no protective measures for the daily wage workers hired by the owners and their contractors.
“Every day, miners take tonnes of clay in these big dumpers to Karachi and other big cities to make different objects including dishes. The miners have created an environmental mess in the most parts of the region, and ruined the already battered roads” they said.
According to the leaders, if properly auctioned or if miners paid a royalty at each extraction site, mining could fetch money which could be spent on welfare projects of the people of one of the most remote and backward regions of the country. They said that instead, ‘greedy’ miners did not even pay their workers properly, The leaders said that several hundred people who were once hired at the mines were suffering from different ailments, and received no proper treatment of the complications.
They added that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) MPA from Tharparkar Qasim Siraj Soomro had also repeatedly raised his voice against the mining operations, but the miners were yet to be taken to task for their illegal activities.