A fine sparkle of fire can lead to utter devastation in life and property, as well. Such is the enormous power of Fire. But there is a place in India which has been burning with massive flames for the past hundred years. Sounds Impossible.
Jharia coal mines in Dhanbad city of Jharkhand are the most prominent coal mines in India. They are well renowned for their production of “Coke.” Though the Britishers initially managed the mines, Gujarati people took over the control post the independence.
These mines are widespread in over 100 square miles of Area. And the underground flames were first experienced in 1916. And since these hazardous flames have remained untamed.
Jharia Coal mine is still burning?
Though the current government under the supervision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is making immense efforts to cease such grave concern, it would certainly cost India a huge economic crisis, which is quite sensitive at this moment of time.
It would cost a massive 1 billion dollars to evacuate the place and find the workers a new shelter to live and also to shut the untameable flames beneath the ground.
These lethal flames are now aggravating to more than 50 feet, which can certainly be felt by the workers or the nearby natives around the mines. But the question which arises in everyone’s mind is why was this grave-concern not ceased in its initial stages?
Is economy more important than the lives of the innocents? Is there no regard for human life? But these people have nowhere else to go as well and to manage the burden of their responsibilities, and it becomes inevitable for them to pick up their tools and work day in day out to satisfy the pangs in their stomachs. People are certainly living on the edge of the sword in Jharia Coal mines.
Jharia CoalField Underground Fire
Jharia underground fires have to lead to a certain blockage of coal, as well. It is estimated that 37 million tons of coal have succumbed to the brutal power of Flames.
Though it is not impossible to shut the flames down, certain measures can eventually lead to preventing the harmful effects of the underground flames. At this moment, the workers have access to the Gps and other motion detectors, which makes it quite easy for them to detect a danger-prone area.
But, it is just like avoiding the inevitable. The government should take immediate measures to avoid a huge catastrophe, which would consume a huge population and property as well.
Jharia Coal Mine Fire and It’s Impact
In the current scenario, The harmful elements which are extracted from the coal mines have 40% effluents of toxic Hydrogen compounds. This certainly is life threatening by all means.
The oxidation breaths fire to these flames, which is the sole reason why underground flames are aggravating for such a long period. Thus, the government should invest in controlling such elements as well.
These sorts of underground fires have even prevailed in countries like the USA and China, as well. But it seems that the whole world is specifically putting the blame on Indian territory for the emission of hazardous elements causing damages to the Ozone layer as well.
But the Indian government desperately needs to focus on the lives of thousands of people living in such sensitive places, as no one knows what nature is going to offer in the very next moment!
Jharia-झरिया में लगी है दुनिया की सबसे खौफनाक आग/100 years fire
JHARIA MASTER PLAN – Dealing With Fire, Subsidence & Rehabilitation
Everything You Need To Know About It
Jharia, one of the largest mining sites in Jharkhand, is facing problems with subsidence issues and constant fire damage in recent times. Under lease to the Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) Company the Jharia coalfield problems are the result of intense mining activity in the area for over a century.
Jharia Master Plan
The most prevalent issue is the rehabilitation and subsidence of the numerous illegal encroachers who have settled in around 25 different fire-affected areas in the Jharia coalfield area. You can read the Jharia coal field history.
To tackle these issues firsthand the Government of India approved the Jharia master plan in August of 2009. The plan is estimated to have an investment of around INR 7,112 crores for the Jharia rehabilitation and the Jharia subsidence issues. The plan was set to be implemented in around 10 years, post the first 2 years.
Brief Overview of Jharia Master Plan for Fire, Rehabilitation & Subsidence
The Jharia master plan outlines the following aspects for Jharia rehabilitation, resettlement and Jharia subsidence by BCCL for its employees and their families:
Rehabilitation requirements – Jharia rehabilitation and resettlement entails that BCCL build 25,000 homes, with an estimated cost of around INR 1,068 crores. The rehabilitation is to be done in phases. The priority for resettlement has been given for constructing 15,852 homes urgently, for subsidence and fire-affected families of BCCL employees.
Resettlement plan – Under the Jharia rehabilitation point, in Phase-I, around 12,642 homes were to be completed but the figure is down to 7,926 homes. Under Phase-II, around 12,538 homes were required but after adjustment with current projected estimates, this number is down to 7,926 homes too. The company plans to finish Phase-I and Phase-II of the Jharia master plan by 2021. The adjusted figures are the result of considering reduction in employees within the next 5 to 6 years.
Construction update – Under the ongoing implementation of the Jharia master plan, around 5,576 homes have been constructed completely and another 9,424 homes are under-construction. In all, 2,612 families have been reportedly resettled into new accommodations, till last update.
Final conclusion – As per present progress pace and projected estimates from experts, BCCL is well-ahead of schedule and may be able to completely execute the Jharia rehabilitation phase of the Jharia master plan by next year, 2019.
Jharia rehabilitation, resettlement and subsidence
The Jharia master plan outlines the following aspects for Jharia rehabilitation, resettlement and Jharia subsidence by JRDA for those affected by fires in the Jharia coalfield region:
Rehabilitation requirements – According to latest reports, JRDA has been able to excel and completed socio-economic and demographic surveys of 84,497 families from 569 sites, as opposed to surveying only 54,159 families from 595 sites, as outlined in the Jharia master plan.
Resettlement plan – Under the Jharia master plan, JRDA has been tasked with constructing a total of 54,159 homes. These are to be completed in two phases and need to be completed within 10 years.
Construction update – The JRDA authorities have successfully constructed a total of 3,072 homes, and have shifted 1,272 families in these, as per latest report. Out of the total, 720 additional houses were constructed under the Jharia master plan in which 103 families were resettled.
Final conclusion – According to latest update, is planning construction of an additional 8,000 homes apart from the 2,352 homes planned under the demonstration scheme.
Latest Update of Jharia Master Plan for Jharia Rehabilitation & Jharia Subsidence
Protest over rehabilitation scheme’s ambiguous nature
According to latest news reports, BCCL has courted controversy and backlash from various corners with their latest action. The company issued yet another appeal to the illegal encroachers in over 24 of their fire-hit Jharia coalfield areas to move to safer place, despite having fewer rehabilitation homes ready than is presently required.
Apart from this, there is widespread concern regarding the specific criteria that entails resettlement as well as the lack of solid data on the 595 fire-affected sites before 2004.
BCCL, through their Shimla Bahal Colliery issued a notice application in newspapers addressing the illegal encroachers of around 21 areas to vacate immediately, lest they face the same fate as that faced by those living in the nearby Indirachowk area in November of 2014 and Tarabagan area in August of 2016.
Safely evacuation and resettlement From Jharia Coal Fire
The company also stated that most of their employees, along with their families, have been safely evacuated and resettled in safer areas. For the rest, the up-coming retirement will mean that they will have to vacate their homes, as per company policy. For the families of non-BCCL employees, the Jharia master plan entails sufficient resettlement and rehabilitation.
The company defended the move by stating that the appeal is in accordance to the plan which requires shifting employees and families from the 42 high-threat areas out of the total 595, in order to avoid any incident.
However, the appeal was met with protest from residents of the area, most of them asking the feasibility of resettlement despite the JRDA lacking sufficient accommodations for those asked to evacuate. The criteria of 2004 being the cut-off for seeking resettlement under the Jharia master plan is also a point of dispute amongst the residents in these areas.
The government’s stance on Jharia rehabilitation
In contrast, the Additional District Magistrate (Law and Order) stated that there is no confusion about the criteria for resettlement as the Jharia master plan includes providing rehabilitation to those who have settled in the area after 2004 as well.
The ADM also added that the rehabilitation process is being expedited with the help of various agencies who are tasked with verification of over 91,000 families in the fire-hit Jharia coalfield region and affected from Jharia coal dust pollution.
The verification process is said to be completed within the next two months. For those not eligible for the master plan’s Jharia rehabilitation scheme, they will be included in other government scheme for resettlement.
In addition, the ADM also stated that JRDA currently has around 550 vacant quarters at Belgharia and an additional 2,000 homes are being constructed as well.
About India’s Jharia Coal Mines
It is surprising and also disturbing to note that what offers scope for huge commercial profits is also an immense source of pollution and the worst health ailments that mankind has ever known. We are talking about the Jharia coalfields. It consists of 23 mines that lay underground and 9 large open ones, all now burning with high flames.
Jharia coalfield fire started 100 years ago
The fires raging in Jharia’s coal mines have been going on an astounding hundred years. It’s very difficult to put out any of them because once a coal seam has been ignited, unless it is snuffed early, it will go on for tens to even hundreds of years. So, though the abundant coal fields of Jharia are the most productive in the country, yielding very high quality coal, they are also the source of the worst pollutants.
Jharia coal Fire
A huge amount of poisonous gases are let into the atmosphere from mines on the surface. Furthermore, fires burning in the underground mines here have also created massive sinkholes that have taken the lives of many. Emissions from these fires are highly toxic as tests show that they have 40 to 50 hydrocarbons mentioned in britannica.com, many of which are carcinogenic. No steps were taken in the past on pollution and environment control here.
Impact of coal mining on the environment and people living close by
Coal contains sulfur and many dangerous metals such as lead, arsenic and mercury, which get released into the air when it is burnt and this is great risk for our health . As coal is largely made up of carbon, it releases a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is known to increase the greenhouse effect and cause global warming. When coal is extracted on the subsurface area, the mines have a tendency to collapse thus trapping miners.
People living closely the mines get black lung disease from pollutants arising from burning coal and coal particles. They can also get lung inflammation and respiratory problems. Coal that is removed from mountains results in removal of layers from the mountain top, which changes the landscape and disrupts the fragile ecosystem in the area. The smoke can also affect water bodies, contaminate them and increase their acidity levels. Land around the coal mine is unfertile and no vegetation grows in it. The temperature of the area increases and this combined with smoke can cause suffocation.
Here is the report by New York Times
“Dr. S. K. Bhagania in his private clinic in Jharia, holding up an X-ray for a coal-mining patient revealing a mass in the lungs. Many of those working in the coal industry and living near the open fires suffer from severe respiratory ailments including tuberculosis, pneumoconiosis and asthma. Credit Souvid Datta”
If The Environment and Health Problems Due To Coal Mining Are So Bad, Why Are We Still Relying On Jharia Coal Mines as a Source of Energy?
The Jharia coal mines were initiated in the late 1800s. The first fire broke out in 1916 and till today, it continues to rage, thus contributing to global warming. The question arises… why any action is not taken by the government to stop work in these mines completely.
The answer is simple. These coal mines provide the highest quality coal in the country and mining coal from them fuels the country’s rapid economic growth. It also stops the country from importing this grade of coal for energy purposes. While countries in the West are now thriving because of their huge technological advancement, developing nations like India, still really on coal resources for energy supply. Though the Modi Government has given hopes of making heavy investment into Solar energy, still it is not possible to move right away into it.
Furthermore, Jharia coal fields have not been used to their complete potential as a huge amount of coal is lost to burning fires. Before taking action on how to put out the fires, we must learn how much is financial lost by the burning fires. It is estimated that 37 million tons of coal, with could have fetched billions of dollars if they had been mined has been lost to the fires.
Adding to this is another 1.4 billion metric tons of coal which cannot be accessed anymore as raging fires are blocking them. These huge figures make it imperative for them to be put down right away so that their potential can be turned into a huge economical gain for the country.
By putting out the fires huge profits can be gained from them. Hence talks are in progress to have them put out for this purpose… the question is when will that happen completely?
What Is The Government Doing About The Health And Environmental Issues Of Coal Mining?
The first step taken by the government towards this is seen in efforts to relocate villages and settlements at a further distance from the mines, so that the fires can be extinguished. This is also protecting people from the pollution caused by their flames. These activities are expensive and the estimated cost is 1 billion dollars.
The next step is initiation of activities that put out the fires. In case of near surface fires, the area above the fire has to be smoothened out so that heavy equipment can be taken over it. The entire fire zone is then cordoned into a grid structure and holes are drilled in it about 20 meters apart.
Water is injected into the holes and this process must go on for one or two years. The area should be then covered by silt. Underground fires can be extinguished by first isolating the affected area with dam constructions and then feeding an inert gas like nitrogen through pipelines into the area for a period of time to douse flames. These methods should be followed to put out Jharia coal field fires and make them usable again.
I have taken some photographs which has been used in Sabji Patti Jharia Durga Puja Pandal to show the truth about Jharia. Have a look:
Updated: 3-2-2019 Jharia has become the most polluted city in the whole country due to its coal dust
The Green Peace India has shared its report and found that Jharia has become the most polluted city in India. Dhanbad is in 9th position. Here is the newspaper cutting which I am going to share with you. After this news, Jharia people started movement to save Jharia.
New Survey 2020: The Most Polluted City 2020 : Jharia and Dhanbad in Second Number
Share your comments and opinions in the comment section to discuss about the Jharia Coal Mines and Pollution control.