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India: Adverse effects of open cast mining

Coal mining in India began in 1774. John Sumner and Suetonius Grant Heatly of East India Company commenced commercial exploitation in the Ranigunj coalfield in West Bengal state. India has estimated coal reserves of 306.6 billion metric tons (338.0 billion short tons), the fifth largest coal reserves in the world. India is the fourth largest producer of coal in the world, producing 591.4 million tons in 2014.

During 1961-62 allover India there were800 collieries, out of them 45 were under private possession comprising of122 areas/divisions and 927 mines, where as the public sector possessed only 2 collieries and 46 mines only. The total mines were 973.Now the number is declined to 550 mines.

Prior to 1975 no Open Cast Projects (OCPs) were in existence in India. In the year 1991 new economic and industrial policies ( Liberalisation - Privatisation - Globalisation (LPG) )were introduced in India.  After that the coal industry too became a victim of these above cited policies. Now the OCPs have occupied more than half.

The OCPs make the places to be huge craters and store huge amount of water. The water stagnated in the craters become polluted and merge with water sources under the earth lead to water contamination. The polluted water leads to many disorders both skin and abdominal. It also lead to steep fall in ground water levels.

The OCPs cause serious environmental pollution. During and after its excavation occupies a huge amount of place. The dust spreads over a radius of 25-30 KMs causing serious pulmonary diseases. It leads to pollute and spoil air, water and other surface resources.

The huge blasting leads to crack down the houses, infrastructure and the others. The earth will shake for a while as it is quite like an earth quake occurred during that time. Along this sound pollution is quite common and many people have become dumb. As the dust spread over its residue will deposit over the trees and other crops. There will be no photosynthesis as the residue deposited on the leaves, form as a layer, the chlorophyll could not be able to collect sun rays and air. More over the trees and plants affected with dust could not release oxygen in to the air. There will be neither self-pollination nor cross-pollination among the pollen of one another and there will be no fertilization. Ultimately it leads to no yield or a meager one. Gradually the plants will die. In a long course total greenery will be disappeared. It is proved elsewhere in the industrial areas.

An OCP occupy a minimum of more than 1,000 acres of land. Hundreds of villages will badly affected of forcible eviction, lacs of acres of forests will be de-notified, besides that the rulers they themselves make loud noise of protection of environment. Thousands of adivasis, tribals and other poor people depended on forest and its produces will be displaced from their natural habitations, even losing their livelihood. They could avail neither compensation nor reconstruction and rehabilitation packages. The history has proved it and many a lot instances are before our eyes what was happened during all these course of `development`.
The mud excavated from an OCP is called over burden, consists of chemicals, mainly the hydrocarbon components. The OB of each open cast mine occupies a vast area of land to deposit it. It helps to grow neither trees nor animals. It will badly affect the cultivating lands leads to steep fall in area as well as yield too.
An open cast project means nothing but an open corruption. Many commissions and enquiry reports have made it crystal clear since its inception. The State Assembly of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh in India did a thorough debate over corruption in introducing a German machine in OCP-2, but the project was promoted to Rs. 500 crore to 1,200 crore, beyond all allegations. More over they have introduced BG panels, High walls from France and Long walls from Germany.

In the name of mechanization the OCPs continue to produce coal by machinery, reducing man power. The developed countries have exported out dated machinery to the third world countries or developing countries and these countries have become a dump yard for out dated machinery. Lack of spare parts and delay in arrival and its repairs led them to set aside and idle for many years. This could be observed anywhere else in the coal industry, especially the OCPs.

Prior to 1991 the coal industry had provided employment for more than 6 Lacs. Now it has declined to 2.85 lacs. But the OCPs consume very few workers. In the name of reducing expenses they are engaging contract and out sourcing workers. These workers could enjoy neither legal rights nor genuine rights and minimum amenities.  The contract and out sourcing workers have no job security and could get no minimum wages too. Their lives are quite like “a lamp in the air”. Many OCPs have recorded accidents.

An OCP could extract just 10 per cent of coal. But the underground mines could do the remaining 90 per cent. The coal is deposited at the utmost bottom levels of the earth. An OCP could extract the sub surface level of 300 meters only. But they are extracting 80 per cent of coal through the OCPs.

Thus, the open cast projects are quite against all as they lead to destruction, displacement, unemployment and environmental imbalance.  
Place: Hyderabad,                                                                                 Sadineni VenkateswaraRao
Date : 06-02-2017                                                                                   All India President,
                                                                                          Indian Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU).