In the district of Karak, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, there is a large oil and gas processing and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) recovery plant. The plant was inaugurated in 2018 by the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who claimed that the project was completed with Rs 20 billion and that it would bring benefits to the province’s economy.
However, for many women living near the plant, the benefits are far from visible. They still have to collect firewood from the nearby hills and forests to cook and provide for their families, as they do not have access to the gas that is being produced and processed in their backyard. This is a stark contrast to the government’s announcement that it would supply gas to the population living within a five-kilometre radius of gas fields and legalise gas connections in areas where pilferage was high.
The irony of this situation is not lost on the women, who have to endure the hardships of fetching firewood, often walking long distances and facing security risks, while also suffering from the environmental and health impacts of the gas plant. They complain that the plant has polluted the air and water, causing respiratory and skin problems, and that the noise and vibrations have disturbed their peace and sleep.
The people of Karak also lament the lack of development and employment opportunities in their area, despite the presence of the gas plant. They say that the plant has not created any jobs for the local people, especially the women, and that they have not received any compensation or royalty from the government or the companies operating the plant. They demand that the authorities should address their grievances and ensure that they get their fair share of the gas resources.
The plight of these people highlights the gap between the promises and realities of the oil and gas sector in Pakistan, which is often plagued by corruption, mismanagement, and inefficiency. It also raises questions about the social and environmental costs of the energy projects that are being pursued by the government and the private sector, without taking into account the needs and rights of the affected communities. It is high time that the government and the companies should adopt a more inclusive and sustainable approach to the development of the oil and gas resources, and ensure that the benefits are equitably distributed among the people, especially the women, who bear the brunt of the negative impacts.