Catastrophe Awaits Dhanbad’s Ecosystem
Independent Team’s Site Visit Verifies Findings of CAG & Parliamentary Committee on Illegal Coal Mines in Dhanbad
Dhanbad, Jharkhand, 12/9/2011
An Independent Team visited the sites of Coal India Limited (CIL) by an independent fact finding team in the backdrop of Performance Audit of Coal India Limited by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India.
CAG has revealed that CIL mines are being undertaken without environmental clearance. This has been corroborated even by the Jharkhand Pollution Control Board which ordered the closure of 22 mines operated by Bharat Coking Coal Limited, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Coal India. However, the team was dismayed to note that on 26th August, 2011, the Jharkhand court had ordered a status quo till August 30, 2011 despite this illegal mining is going on with impunity.
As per the report of the Parliamentary Committee on Coal and Steel, the environmental hazards of illegal mining are as under:
(i) ―Illegal mining means removing of coal in an unsystematic manner without following safety and conservation norms as a result of which unpredictable subsidence takes place. This invariably causes damage to surface structures. Such practices carried out in populated areas make these areas unstable and unsafe.
(ii) Illegal mining also leads to occurrence of underground fire on account of spontaneous heating. Open flames can sometimes be seen on the surface along with emission of obnoxious gases. One of the most persistent threats from the fire is land subsidence. As the burning coal turns to ash, hollow pockets are created underground, that leave the surface unstable and prone to sudden collapse, which leads to degradation of land/loss of green cover. This loss of green cover disturbs the ecological balance adversely affecting the flora and fauna.
(iii) Water balance is disturbed in and around the locations of illegal mining.
(iv) There are socio-economic factors involved due to loss of livelihood on account of fire/land subsidence / land degradation resulting from illegal mining.
(v) Due to unsystematic workings, these mines are potential death traps and a potential safety hazard.
The team comprised of Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Shekhar Agarwal, Rajnish Kumar, Gopal Krishna and Ashok Agarwal. The team visited several sites including Ghanuwadih, Boka pahari, Jairampur, Tisra, Siding no. 9, Sudamdih, Patahardi, Lodana, Jharia. The team met activists of Jharia Coalfield Bachao Samiti. The visit happened during September 11-12, 2011.
The team also got an opportunity to meet veteran Parliamentarian, Basudev Acharya who was here to save RSP College where he studied in 1960-62 due to underground fire region near Bhagatdih. The college was started in 1951. It is believed that the underground fire is about 60 metres from the college and is inching towards it at the rate of 2.2 metres/ month. There is anger among the residents because of the criminal callousness of Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL), a subsidiary of CIL. The coming 20 months or so appears to be crucial for Jharia which faces an impending ecosystem disaster if central and state government does not act with unprecedented urgency to avert it.
The team witnessed BCCL management’s lackadaisical approach in saving the college by digging trenches at very slow pace. The residents alleged that the company was deliberately delaying the action to get hold of these plots for its mining projects unmindful of human cost. The team met the activists of Jharia Coalfield Bachao Samiti who are demanding that open cast mining be stopped immediately, resettlement and rehabilitation policy of BCCL be revised and all endangered areas of Jharia Coalfileds be urgently stowed and rendered safe.
The team in its preliminary observation feels that CAG should conduct an environmental audit at the earliest and suggest remedial measures to arrest the ongoing decline of the Dhanbad’s ecosystem to avoid catastrophe in near future. The team will release its final observations in the coming days.
Thakurta’s documentary “Hot As Hell” was screened at the auditorium of Industries Association which chronicles illegal mines in Dhanbad.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, Convener, ToxicsWatch Alliance & Member, FFT Mb: 09818089660, E-mail: email@example.com, Web: toxicswatch.blogspot.com
Shekhar Agarwal, Member, Fact Finding team (FFT) Mb: 9431124467