India’s Burning Land
2016 will mark the 100th recorded year that underground fires have burnt through the mining district of Jharia, India. The fires have been caused by the improper practices of the coal mining corporations as they disregard safety protocols and regulations. Initially the fires were stabilised through sand slating but, as reports are now suggesting, this is no longer a viable possibility without the entire community of Jharia being evacuated. The mining corporations estimate that the number of families effected will be around 67,000. However, according to local protesters, this figure is closer to 100,000.
In the summer of 2015 I travelled to Jharia and spoke those effected to investigate the reality of what is happening there.
Beghmara village was occupied by 1,300 families before the fire reduced the buildings to piles of bricks and rumble. The locals were evacuated and moved to a temporary location nearby.
In 2010, the local government constructed rehabilitation housing for locals who had lost their homes due to the fires. The Belgaria housing project is currently occupied by around 3,400 families. The occupants claimed that the government promised facilities for education and healthcare but so far none of these promises have been met. The rooms are cramped as whole families are given only 120ft2 of room.
Chandan (8) was walking with a friend near his home in Bokapahari village when the underground fires caused the ground beneath him to collapse. Chandan was pulled out by his friend but he now suffers from crippling burns around his body. After 10 months his family are yet to receive any form of help from the local government.