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Black Hell

Valerie Leonard | India

Jharia, in India’s eastern Jharkhand state, is literally in flames. This is due to the open cast coal mining that takes place in this area.

For more than 80 years, the Jharian coal mines have been alight with coal mining villages of around seven hundred thousand people.

Most of the mining is done opencast mines, as the price to mine is relatively lower in order to produce profits.

Underground fires have been burning for all those years now. All efforts to put out the fires have been in vain. Everywhere you look, there will be a coalmine. Everyday, villagers in Jharia go to scavenge whatever coal there is in the ground to support their families after selling the coal on the black market. People here are too poor to move from their crumbling shelters, and continue to live in the area, risking their lives.


In the State of Jharkhand, in the northeast of India, the Damodar Valley became a hell on Earth. The open-cast coal mines there took over the forest. These mines have been active without interruption for over a century.

The extraction of the "black diamond", destroyed the fauna, the flora, and upset the topography.

For more than eighty years, a huge underground fire is burning exhaling enormous quantities of carbon dioxide into the air. All efforts to put out this fire have been in vain.

In the suffocating hostility of this environment, a desperate people sacrifice their lives for the economic development of India. They work and survive despite the many diseases caused by the toxic atmosphere.

The lucky ones are employed by mining companies. For a dollar a day, men and women break the coal that they carry in wicker baskets on their head to load the trucks.

But the majority of them, by thousands, before dawn, illegally collect coal to sell it on the black market.



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