Oil & Gas Industry: Of Malice, Deceit & Corporate Greed
Pakistan as a country due to retrogressive and non proactive policies of previous governments/regimes in power has created a widening gulf between energy consumption and energy generation. This dearth and deficiency with context to the energy crisis had led to oil and gas exploration throughout the country, inclusive of far flung and underdeveloped areas, predominantly in Balochistan and Sindh.
Additionally, with increasing explorative advances of oil, gas and now shale gas deposits having been found in Pakistan in various regions, it has become imperative and fundamental that the law of the land must be implemented in letter and spirit coupled with safeguarding the rights of the local population where these deposits have been found and more importantly, the owner of the land from which these critical assets that drive the country’s economy engine further are discovered.
Many local and international oil and gas based operating companies are now functioning and searching for oil, gas and shale deposits in Pakistan yet as per their contact and their moral and legal obligation, nothing has been done for the local populace of the region(s) where these deposits are being extracted. Earning profit margins well into billions yet literally bleeding the wells dry and as a result it’s the country that is ultimately at loss including the local inhabitants who live in the region where deposits are being extracted from.
Adding insult to injury is the mere fact that these oil and gas corporations work solely for their own self interest, driven by greed, devoid of any concern and empathy for the region where they are extracting these invaluable naturally occurring resources from. In addition, where they establish their base of operations for exploring, some of these areas are otherwise agricultural tracts of lands where at times the only source of cultivation and for local drinking consumption/utilization is through naturally irrigated streams, canals and wells. For example, case in point is the hilly area found nearby Sehwan Sharif, Naig, in the district of Dadu, Sindh. Due to drilling, fracking, and gas exploration activities, these companies also run the risk of releasing toxic and hazardous chemicals and contaminates rendering the water unfit for consumption of human beings, livestock and for irrigation purposes.
This ultimately is affecting the whole localized ecology because it’s permanently having irreparable and irreversible consequences that are impacting the landscape of the regions where these oil and gas corporations are operating with unrestrained voracity and devoid of any watchdog body overseeing their activities. The aforementioned contaminants consequently are causing serious ailments such as acute and respiratory illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema pneumonia and pulmonary edema to name some.
Perhaps, a more damning indictment of their dealings is the sorry fact that most of the locals are oblivious of the harmful water that they are consuming and giving to their livestock and irrigating their lands with, they are already leaving in abject poverty and literary as it is, doing this to their health and on top, their only source of livelihood is an act bordering on criminal conduct.
To cut the long debate short, will we see progress by sacrificing/ignoring the human element in the balance or will we safeguard the local environment, life and geographic integrity of the regions where these company are drilling, fracking and exploring gas with absolute and at times illicit autonomy?
Though, it is true that they have the go ahead of the Government, whether it may be federal or provincial, but nonetheless, they are not honoring their obligation and contracts. They lure the local population where they want to explore oil and gas by giving them false hopes of progress and a quality life. They promise unparalleled development in the area in guise of better educational institutes, clinics, roads and by providing jobs which all turns out to be just a smoking mirror and lie, plain and simple. The jobs instead of going to the locals, which is their due right, are instead are provided on favor basis to the relatives and associates of the employees which is a stark abuse of rights in shape of deceptive and fraudulent conduct. The usual practice is that the local people are only restricted to daily wages employment and no formal jobs which have a proper contract.
As far as the plight of the landowners are concerned, it too fall on deaf ears, it is the poor farmer and the land owner who has to face the environmental damages in shape of lack/poor quality of irrigation water and contaminated soil erosion which leads to loss in yield and productivity.
It’s a vicious cycle, in a country like Pakistan, where corruption is rampant, these oil and gas companies have deep pockets and coffers which they efficiently utilize to do as they see fit. The concerning officers and Government watch bodies who should instead keep these drilling companies in check so that they don’t deviate from the contracts being done with the government and additionally take steps for the upliftment of backward areas that they operator in.
The crying need of the hour is that the concerned body, that is the Ministry of Petroleum should keep a check on the activities of these companies which are operating with hegemony with no restrain. The Ministry of Petroleum in tandem with the Ministry of Agriculture should publish the laws for the public in order to create awareness amongst them and also to educate the local population and the land owners of their rights in the areas where this company operate.
It is unprecedented that in any other part of the world, such companies would be given such liberty to damage the environment and put the life and health of the local population in serious risk only for the sake of generating profit. Corrective steps on behalf of the local population must be taken by the Government now as valuable time is already being lost doing nothing. This is corporate greed compounded tenfold and still there is no satiation to their hunger. This is certainly not progress, this is one step forward and two step back, we are generating energy but putting the rural Pakistan at risk and the backbone of Pakistan, which is agriculture.