Beyond ‘Coalgate’: Mining Blackens River and Life in Jharkhand

15 years of intemperate coal mining have completely destroyed a river that was the lifeline of the people living in the vicinity of the mines. The water has almost dried up, the fish have disappeared, the ecology is diseased - the river is almost dead. The land has turned toxic. Ground waters reserves are depleted. The fetid water that the villagers have access to via hand pumps is mixed with oil and is unfit for bathing or drinking purposes. Life on the banks of the Chutwa river in Ramgadh district, Jharkhand is under threat. The future of around 10 villages on the banks of the river looks bleak. 28 year old IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent Mohan Bhuiyan is an anti-mining activist. He has been ardently working towards empowering his mining-afflicted community for most of his adult life. He wistfully reminds us of an idyllic time when the villages on the fertile banks of the river Chutwa were lush and green. The river used to be a bountiful source of clean water and fish for the villagers in the area. But since the arrival of the coal companies, the forests have been cleared out and the river reduced to a sickly stream of polluted water. With no alternative source of water provided to them, the villagers are forced to bathe in the contaminated river Chutwa and as a result of this many suffer from water-borne diseases. Cases like tuberculosis, dysentery, jaundice, and typhoid are rampant here. Even the air they breathe is polluted with the fugitive emissions of particulate matter and gases including methane, sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and carbon monoxide. The environment in the Kedla-Basantpur area has become uninhabitable and the toxic air that looms over the villages in this basin stifles every hope of living a wholesome life there. The villagers’ protests have been defiantly ignored and their repeated complaints to the coal companies have seen no success for the last fifteen years. Mohan says that the overall sentiment hanging in the air is a feeling of helplessness. The people feel robbed of their land, their cultural identity, and the basic means to live a happy, healthy life. - Rashmi Alevoor ========= Rashmi has a Master's degree in Advertising and Management from the College of Communications, Boston University, U.S.A where she was a staff writer for their award-winning graduate magazine, The Comment. She has worked in advertising agencies in Mumbai since then. She has recently moved to Dehradun and is volunteering with a waste management company called Waste Warriors.  She exploring new cultures and enjoys a good book. 
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