photo by bidhanu (source: Flickr Creative Commons)

Dozens of giant underground coal fires have been burning in the Indian state of Jharkhand for almost 100 years, according to a BBC News report. Attempts at extinguishing the fires have so far been unsuccessful. Now, the Indian government wants to move in and put out the fires with water and chemicals, and subsequently remove the coal.

The problem is that some 400,000 people live on the coalfields – the desperately poor that survive by scavenging for coal. It is a hot, dirty and dangerous place where living conditions are beyond Dickensian, as exemplified in the town of Jharia. The government plans to move Jharia’s poor scavengers out to get at the vast reserves of coal, which it will use to fuel India’s rapidly industrializing economy.

Despite the shocking conditions of life on the burning coalfields, the local poor do not wish to leave, as they have no other means of support. So offers from the government have been deemed inadequate.

Watch this BBC News report on the burning coalfields of India and the unbelievably desperate conditions of those who live amongst the coal fires.

BBC News – Dispute over India’s coalfields

For a comprehensive article featuring many stark photos of the town of Jharia in Jharkhand state, India, check out this Greenpeace article.

Additional resources

The Telegraph (India) – Coal pit fire fuels worries

American Chronicle – Underground mine fire engulfing Jharia town of Jharkhand State, India.