A Dying Land
Inside India's Coal Mines
For over 100 years the underground coal seam fire has been burning in India's coal mining belt of Jharia, Jharkhand. No one knows how it started, and there are few signs of it being extinguished or running out of fuel - there is virtually an unlimited amount of coal below the surface.
Across Jharia's barren and dying land the ranging fire is responsible for one of the most tragic environmental and social development issues. Deadly disease and cancer-causing gases and particulates blanket the region day and night. The surrounding communities have little choice but to live and breathe in the toxic air laden with sulfur, lead, arsenic, black carbon, and climate change causing carbon dioxide.
There has been little research on the health impacts of communities living and working around the mines. There is also the terrifying reality of villages and people disappearing into sinkholes that appear without warning.
Projected to increase India's coal usage remains a vital part of India's energy mix for development. However, Jharia is a poignant reminder about the cost of societies reliance on fossil fuels - in particular coal and how bad things can get. How far are we willing to push the human and environmental costs to meet our energy needs?