INDIAN COAL

Erik Messori

The coal mining industry of eastern India creates inhumane working conditions and shanty towns. The state of Jharkhand is one of the world’s largest suppliers of coal but it is seeing entire forests destroyed by the industry. The life expectancy of its workers is falling as one of the prices of meeting the increasing demands of “progress”. The increased production of carbon monoxide and deforestation created by the open-cut Indian coal mines will affect not only the Indian workers’ health but the rest of India and the world.
Jharkhand not only produces coal for India but also exports it worldwide. Ninety per cent of its mines are open-cut, where incessant digging and spontaneous combustion of coal releases incalculable amounts of carbon monoxide, a major cause of global warming. Entire forests have been destroyed to make room for this savage extraction in order to satisfy the increasing demand. The central government grants concessions for extracting the coal and manages both state and private enterprises but has created a social and economic imbalance in the mining area, which was once an agricultural zone and has now been entirely restructured for coal mining. Many people are unemployed and unable to cultivate the fields as the waterways are contaminated with polluting agents as a result of the burning coal. The millions of people left without poor economic prospects are forced to work illegally and in unsafe conditions. The escalating pollution from coal mining exposes locals to the risk of very serious respiratory diseases including tuberculosis, lung cancer, tumors, and occlusions of the respiratory airways together with blood diseases and cardiac dysfunctions caused by the inhalation of carbon monoxide, all contributing to an average lifespan of no more than 50 years. These pathologies are destroying the state’s future in the name of progress. Throughout Jharkhand new villages are springing up near the open-cut coal mines with devastating consequences for the population, as many people live without basic hygiene and sanitation. Entire shanty towns lack running water and sewage systems, and are filled with people breathing in toxic pollutants and carbon monoxide while the government facilities which should guarantee minimal heath standards are completely inadequate.

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