A Dying Land

Inside India's Coal Mines

The breath of hell breathes beneath the land. The fire swallows and engulfs everything above and is fuelled by a virtually unlimited amount of coal. This is Jharia, one of India's major coal mining regions, has been burning for over 100 years. How the fire began, no one knows. 


Across the barren and dying land, the raging fires are creating vast interconnected health, environmental and social development issues. The deadly disease and cancer-causing gases and particulates blanket the region day and night where there is no escape for the communities that depend on the mines for their livelihoods. Climate change causing carbon dioxide, along with sulfur, lead, arsenic and black carbon are but some of what enters the lungs. 


There is little research on people's health in this forgotten part of the world. The people suffering the consequences of exposure to deadly air pollution, along with the villages and people swallowed by sinkholes disappearing into a fiery inferno are all but statistics. Their families grief is shared by few. 


With India's coal usage set it dramatically increase as time passes, Jharia is a pertinent reminder of the cost of our societies reliance on fossil fuels. How far do we push the human and environmental costs to meet our energy needs? There is a better way. However, until we have this conversation, the people of Jharia have little choice where the cost of survival is life itself that away to the coal mines to make ends meet.

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Ashley Crowther is an Asia based documentary photographer and photojournalist and is one of the foremost storytellers documenting climate change through photography.


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