The real cost of the Indian coal
By Erik Messori
Jharkhand: a mining state of Eastern India – it is the coal mined from here that has made this Indian state world-known for being the second largest coal producer. Second only to China, India extracts from its soil a quantity of coal overly sufficient for its energy and transport needs; the remainder is exported worldwide. 90% of the mines, which work continuously, are open-air and most of these work upon auto-combustion which releases an incalculable amount of carbon monoxide – the cause of global warming. Whole forests have been destroyed to make way for this brutal extraction and to satisfy the country’s ever-growing development. The concessions for coal mining are granted by the central government and managed by both state and private owned enterprises, thus creating a social and economic imbalance in the area. Everything rotates around the mining industry which was once an agricultural area and is now fully converted to coal mining. Many people are jobless and can not cultivate their fields because groundwater aquifers are polluted by agents deriving from coal combustion. These thousands of people, without economic opportunities, are forced to work illegally, in nonexistent safety conditions and with state police always on their backs. The dramatic increase of pollution due to this brutal coal extraction is causing the population to suffer from the most serious respiratory diseases, from lung cancer to silicosis, from many typologies of tuberculosis to obstruction of the respiratory system. Related, as well, are severe blood diseases caused by carbon monoxide inhalation, cardiac disfunction and a short-life expectancy (which does not exceed the 50 year mark). These diseases are destroying the future of this Indian state in the name of progress. Throughout the area, new villages are up-starting close to the open-air coal mines, with devastating consequences for the population, who live without the most basic hygiene infrastructure. Whole ghettos without running water and a sewage system, and where the air is unbreathable due to fine dusts and is saturated with carbon monoxide generated from coal combustion, are in a situation where local and state infrastructures which should ensure even just minimum health care are totally insufficient and inadequate.