World-over, it is a well-known fact that the Jharkhand accounts for nearly half of India’s mineral wealth, and the region has huge reserve of coal, iron ore, mica, bauxite and lime-stones and significant reserves of copper, chromites, manganese, dolomite, uranium etc.
It is all well-known truth among the knowledgeable people, that for centuries together the Tribal people of Jharkhand lived in harmonious relationship with their environment. In fact they developed a unique culture and traditional way of life having symbiotic relation to the nature. As their day-to-day lives are closely linked to the natural surroundings; any adverse impacts on the natural environment are bound to harmfully alter the tribal way of life. The mining and similar industrial activities involving the large-scale exploitation of the natural resources of the state are playing havoc with the lives of indigenous population as well as general population across the state.
Our enormous mineral wealth has ensured that Jharkhand becomes home to many big industrial establishment. Sadly many of these industrial units established since pre-Independence and the post-independence days have brought with them the devastation of our environment and our lives. The reality is that only very few of the mining-related business units in Jharkhand can claim to be environmental friendly.
Greedy mining has ruined the land, water, forests, air and the local population. Irresponsible mining activities have the led to hasten the process of sterilizing the fertile lands, sullying the clean water, stripping the thick forest covers, polluting the fresh air and adversely influencing the lives of people who survive and work in the areas near the numerous mines spread across the state.
# Coloring Our Towns & Our Villages
Visit to any mining towns and the villages lays bare the hallow truth about the unscrupulous mining activities. Any one can see the very fine dust particles of the mineral ores forming a uniform layer of dirt on every available surface in these areas. For instance, the Coal mining towns famously show their black beauty soil, Iron mining town sport dirty red soil and the Limestone mining towns are simply have white soils. Visit the so-called Jharkhand’s Coal-Mining Hub, Bauxite-Mining Hub, Iron-Mining Hub, et al to check them yourself.
# Our Lands Losing Fertility
Vast areas of rich forests and agricultural land belonging to the tribal and non-tribal populace have been laid waste because of chaotic mining activities. Eliminating of existing vegetation and alteration of soil profile due to open cast mining operations, including shifting of overburden and reject dumps, have caused severe soil erosion and silting of adjoining courses and degraded the productive capacity of the lands in the area.
# Our Declining Forest Area
Ironically Jharkhand means, “land with forest cover”. Insatiable mining is fast removing the forest covers from the so-called “land with forest cover”. Thousands of hectares of forestland have been turned into mines, without ever thinking about its devastating consequences. Needless to say the very high percentages of tribals and non-tribals living in the vicinity of these forest covers have been forced to migrate. The wildlife populations have been left high-&-dry amidst all these hoopla surrounding the great mining developmental activities. Wildlife denizens are still smarting under the shrinking forest home area but can not even cry for help.
Saranda forest has Asia’s largest Saal trees forests; it was once famously known as the dense forest that even the sun’s rays couldn’t reach its mildly wet ground. Now the ongoing unrestrained mining is wiping out not just the forest but also its wildlife and its non-replaceable bio-diversity. Many local tribal and non-tribal communities living in-and-around Saranda forest have started migrating away from their century old villages to fill hungry stomach of their families.
The existing agricultural and forests land will ultimately turn into more useless wastelands. In coming years more and more local villagers will be forced to migrate to probably work as laborers in more exploitative units like brick kilns, stone quarries, mining, etc. in search of livelihood. These types of forced migrations often act as a harbinger of the related socio-economic upheaval.
# Dirtying Our Drinking Water Resources
The fine discarded Ore particles and the related toxic substances often find their way into the nearby streams, rivers, ponds and other water bodies; thereby often making the water unfit for human consumption. Many big industrial units across the state have located mineral treatment facilities as well as waste effluent plants near the many water bodies; thus compounding the existing water pollution problems. These untreated effluents and the waste particles are often released into our water resources and finally finding their way inside our bodies.
The release of usual toxic materials likes arsenic, mercury, chromium, nickel, etc. from the large number of mines throng not only the Damodar river and its various tributaries but also many other local water resources across the state. Notoriously Damodar is now one of the most polluted Indian rivers. The rampant de-watering by the plethora of underground mines also pollute the nearby water bodies. Simply put they are killing many of us softly and surely.
# Suffocating Our Air
Mineral dust is a pervasive feature of all mining areas. It is generated by wind sweeping dust from water heaps, blasting and the use of heavy machinery. Blasting also produces noxious fumes that are released into the atmosphere. Air pollution in the mining areas in Jharkhand state has caused respiratory diseases and eye ailments to all; except perhaps people sitting in the fabled distant land in their air-conditioned rooms.
# Bleak Present & Equally Grim Future Unless Things Change
The entire Jharkhand area, rich in minerals, will now throw open its fabled mineral rich lands for the plunder by the rich and powerful mining companies of the world. In coming years, the expansion of the mining activities, land degradation, air, water and noise pollution will certainly attain alarming proportions. All these will have the disastrous ecological problems of gigantic proportions in Jharkhand and might lead to serious economic impact upon the villages and their agrarian practices.
Jadugoda of Potka block of East Singhbhum in Jharkhand is infamously known for its Uranium wealth. But the people in the Jadugoda area are simply paying a very steep price for mining of Uranium in their backyard. Numerous health problems afflicting the local denizens have been reported by the health authorities, viz., fatigue, lack of appetite, respiratory ailments, miscarriages, impotency, infant mortality, Down’s syndrome, tuberculosis, skeletal deformities and different skin diseases, children with big heads, etc., the ailment-list is certainly a very lengthy one. Paradoxically, Jadugoda literally means, “magic-land”.
Couple of years ago, the CSE mining report had stated: “The very people for whom Jharkhand was ostensibly created are now being sacrificed in the name of their own state’s development.”
Either the people of Jharkhand do not care or they are simply ignorant of catastrophe that awaits all of us, if this greed continues in unrestrained way. Maybe our mineral wealth is a double-edged sword; unless used intelligently, it may bring mayhem only. Sooner we Jharkhandis understand this fact, better it shall be all of us.
We need to turn our mineral wealth into a boon, not a curse.
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