As we all celebrate the World Day today, a village in Jharkhand continues to be engulfed by noxious fumes coming from a coal mine fire as high as three floors nearby. Kujju-Collieries Mines in Ramgarh district of Jharkhand has been burning continuously for 20 years now, putting lives of nearly 4,500 residents in danger. “The fire has been burning since before 2000, but it was small. But when Central Coalfields Limited (CCL), a subsidiary of Coal India Limited, opened the mines the fire came in contact with air and has constantly been spreading” says Lakhan, who works at the coal mines.
The residents of the village are constantly inhaling the smoke and toxic fumes such of carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide that constantly emanates out of the earth. “Residents here complain of respiratory and skin problems, constant head aches and many other ailments. But where can we go?” Lakhan tells Video Volunteer correspondent Basanti Soren. People here are also concerned, as the coal fire slowly spreads beneath the ground, threatening to open the surface and collapse land the very land they live on.
However, the residents, mostly marginalized community of workers, have no source of employment apart from coal mines and no place else to go. “You think anyone wants to die like this? But we are poor people with nowhere to go. The government tells us to move, but is not making any arrangements for us either,” says Kishore Singh, a resident there. He further claims that CCL has been taking half-hearted measures to control this ecological and human disaster. He says, “CCL wants to just do a patch up work and put an end to this problem. But unless they cut the chunk of coal the fire will continue spreading – across the highway, railways and our homes.”
Coal contains many trace elements, such as arsenic and mercury, which are dangerous to the environment. Coal also has traces of radioactive elements such as uranium, thorium, and other naturally-occurring radioactive isotopes which if released into the environment may lead to radioactive contamination. Though in small percentage, if enough coal is burned these substances are released, paradoxically resulting in more radioactive waste than nuclear power.
Jharkhand has been home to many of India’s largest coal mines, but unknown to many it is also home to one of the longest burning coal fire in the world. Jharia, a coal mine in Jharkhand has been on fire since a century.
Help the residents of the Kujju Collieries escape the ecological and human disaster before it is too late. Call Mr. M.K. Mishra, the general manager of Kujju Colliary on +91 8987785011 and inform him about the coal mine fire which has been lit since 20 years.