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Jharia Coalfield Fire, India


The Jharia coalfield in Jharkhand is an exclusive storehouse of prime coke coal in India. The Jharia mines were opened for coal mining in 1896. The underground fire was detected for the first time in 1916. It started spreading during the 1970s [1]. At present, more than 70 mine fires are reported from this region. Since then, underground fires in Jharia coal field have caused deaths and illnesses in the nearby villages. The pollution caused by the underground fires affects the whole environment. Air, water, and land of near by areas are highly polluted. Smoke, from these fires contains poisonous gases. Smoke and particulate matters are the causes of several respiratory and skin diseases. The gases emitting due to underground fire contribute to global warming. These fires also pollute water by contaminating it and increasing its acidity. These fires cause heavy degradation of land and does not allow any vegetation to grow in the area.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Jharia Coalfield Fire, India
State or province:Jharkhand
Location of conflict:Jharia, Dhanbad
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Coal extraction and processing
Specific commodities:
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Jharia coal mines contain 1,000 million tonnes of coal deposits. According to estimate these coal deposit only can be extracted if people are shifted to other places and efforts are made to extinguish the fire [1].

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Level of Investment:3,226,179,491
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:400,000 - 500,000
Start of the conflict:2006
Company names or state enterprises:Coal India Limited (CIL) from India
Bharat Coking Coal Limited, TISCO, Tata Steel, Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL), Indian Iron And Steel Company (IISCO) (BCCL) from India
Minnes Area Development Authority from India
Relevant government actors:Government of Jharkhand, Jharia Rehabilitation and Development Authority , Jharia Action Plan
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Jharia Koyalanchal Bachao Abhiyan Samiti, Jamin Bachao Sangharsh Samiti
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Industrial workers
Informal workers
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Students of RSP College Jharia Jharia Koyalanchal Bachao Abhiyan Samiti
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Development of alternatives:Experts think the Jharia fires can be doused by filling the mines with inert materials to cut the flow of oxygen. The process may render the coal reserve inaccessible and difficult to mine in future. The way the supply-and-demand chain stands, the Indian coal industry just cannot afford to put the Jharia fire out. Caught in the vicious loop of a life-threatening fire and a fire-fighting effort that they dont trust, people are banding together in protest movements. A non-governmental organisation called Jharia Bachao Andolan Samiti (Save Jharia Movement Committee) has been fighting for safe mining, proper rehabilitation and fire fighting since 1997. Many other small groups have also been formed [3].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:To carry out this huge rehabilitation and fire-fighting project, a master plan called Jharia Action Plan (JAP) was established in 2003. The coal ministry allocated about 711.2 billion rupees for the project. The money has been given to BCCL and the Jharia Rehabilitation Development Authority (JRDA) - a Jharkhand government body carrying out the rehabilitation plan. The government has decided to relocate the entire ‘Jharia’ township because of the uncontrollable spread of underground fires[3]. The Centre has sanctioned Rs 14 crore for the first phase of shifting. It will be one of the worlds major evacuation drives. The shifting would be done in three phases in five years and he also assured people of adequate arrangements to be made in the new township [4]. Relocation project is underway to move more than 50,000 people living in dangerous areas. A building complex has been built for refugees in the district of Belgharia - a poorly connected, forested territory about 10km away from Jharia. But those who have moved feel cheated because of the frequent power cuts, a scarcity of water and the remoteness from work sites [3]. The affected farmers alleged that they have still not been paid compensation and jobs. Proper road connectivity, to the resettlement colonies are not been done. Vocational training centres for the youths is not opened as earlier promised. The coal company also failed in creating medical and educational facilities for the affected families [5].
Sources and Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Land-use mapping and change detection in a coal mining area - a case study in the Jharia coalfield, India
[click to view]

Detection of coal mine fires in the Jharia coal field using NOAA/AVHRR data
[click to view]

Surface thermal anomalies associated with underground fires in Jharia coal mines, India
[click to view]

Landsat-TM data for estimating ground temperature and depth of subsurface coal fire in the Jharia coalfield, India
[click to view]

Cover: Reflectance aureoles associated with thermal anomalies due tosubsurface mine fires in the Jharia coalfield, India
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Jharia Coalfield Fire - - Jharkhand Coal Field is facing 100 yrs old fire
[click to view]

[click to view]

The Fire Within - Coal Mining of Jharkhand
[click to view]

[click to view]

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Contributor:Sohan Prasad Sha & Swapan Kumar Patra
Last update24/06/2014
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