One of the benchmarks of the ‘China Pakistan Economic Corridor’- known as ‘CPEC’ is its USD 35 billion investment in 19 energy projects in Pakistan, generating 12,134 MW of energy. And while some hydro and wind projects are included, and one solar energy projects, the problem is that a huge chunk of these projects are coal based. Specifically, five coal projects in drought ridden Thar, and four imported coal energy projects.

Climate Trackers research on media reporting on climate change in Pakistan found that climate change is reported on often in the national level media, while reporting in local media is not as high. In the case of the Chinese investment in coal in the country, there have been a heartening number of articles linking the investment in coal to climate change , including articles detailing the environmental degradation, implications for land rights of indigenous peoples, and groundwater depletion.

A small business owner in Karachi reads a morning newspaper. Photo by Alex Stonehil

But these articles are also accompanied by a slew of articles, usually covering government events such as the seminar on ‘CPEC myths and realities’, in which Pakistan’s minister for planning, development and reform claimed ‘supercritical modern technology’ would lessen carbon emissions from the project. Other articles go as far as to claim ‘Thar coal best solution to overcome energy crisis’ and also offer up lengthy explanations for how clean energy can be produced with coal.

Pakistan is in the midst of an energy crisis- and the government is keen to ensure there are no hurdles in the way of the development of the energy projects, as it is relying on these projects to secure its vote bank. By offering the energy deprived population of Pakistan what they need most, by the 2018 elections. This means ensuring that the Chinese investments pull through, at all costs.

While Pakistan has had a history of media censorship, as Climate Tracker finds in its research, it is heartening to note that national media outlets are linking the issue to climate change and consistently writing about it. However, until the local media starts reporting on the issue, there is little chance of the communities in thar that will be most impacted, being engaged adequately in the discourse on the subject.

For more insights into media reporting on climate change in Pakistan, click here.

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