© Just Be Nice Studios MMXXII
Welcome to
Souvid Datta is an emerging writer/director, self-shooting PD, photographer and multimedia creative. This site is his portfolio space.

Born in Mumbai, 1990, Souvid grew up between India and the UK. After completing a degree at UCL (2014) in International Relations, Conflict Studies and Law he went on to freelance as a multimedia journalist and filmmaker for several years.

He has worked for clients including The Guardian, The New York Times, National Geographic, Save the Children, Vice, TIME and many more, travelling to over 50 countries covering issues of migration, conflict, the environment and women's rights. His documentary work specialises in character-led, intimate stories that investigate under-reported contemporary issues.

Since 2015, his practice has widened to incorporate narrative elements - developing original TV series, branded content and award-winning, cinematic shorts.

Today, as the Creative Director at SDFilms he works for a range of clients spanning the documentary, commercial, entertainment and music industries.

Whether through cinema, interactive exhibitions, music videos or multimedia investigations, Souvid aims to continue making meaningful visual stories that empower subjects, inform viewers and provoke constructive action.
asia's coal rush
words & VISUALS by
Souvid Datta
India and China's environmental problems are as epic and sweeping as the two countries' economic ambitions.

The capitals of Beijing and New Delhi are notorious for skylines blanketed by an opaque and suffocating smog, where children grow up with asthma and severe respiratory illnesses.

Once vibrant greenlands scattered across fertile states such as Hebei in China and Jharkhand in India are now overrun by sprawling coal fields and fire-spouting factories.

And the nations' water supplies today stand grossly polluted, with the Ganges and the Yangtze's watershed areas poisoned with carcinogenic chemical waste and sewage.
In 2014, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang 'declared war' on pollution. And in 2016, Indian Prime Minister Modi proclaimed an energy agenda set to double coal production by 2020—fuelling promises of bringing electricity to the country's vast rural poor. As the world's most populous nations, India and China are today the battleground for urgent global environmental concerns pitted against rapid national development.

This ongoing investigation aims to unpack and visualise the issues of air and water pollution across India and China. Using character-led stories in acutely affected areas across the two nations - from larger cities such as Beijing and Mumbai, cancer villages such as Xingtai (Hebei) and Sher Singh Wala (Punjab), and massive mining zones such as Jharia (Jharkhand) and Bayan Obo (Inner Mongolia) - this ongoing investigation aims humanise the impact on individuals and to society of worsening air and water pollution, exposing issues from health related ailments to changes in agrarian and urban livelihoods.
Jharia lies at the heart of Indias largest coal belt, within the north-east state of Jharkhand. The area produces almost all of the country's high-quality coking coal required in the production of steel as well as in thermo-electricity plants. Yet the vast open cast mines that stretch through these lands lie on top of underground fires that have been burning for over a century.

Recent mining expansions have provoked these flames causing over 70 open fires to erupt along the earth's surface, spewing noxious gases and destroying the land. Those hardest hit are local villagers and workers in towns such as Jharia - forced to endure poisonous air, dangerous fires and unbearable heat.
Environmental activists have highlighted how the state-run coal mining BCCL firm has deliberately exacerbated the open fires, so as to justify the eviction of locals due to safety risks, and thereby clear the areas of coal-rich land suited for their expansion.

The nearby town of Dhanbad is particularly notorious for its 'coal mafia' - an informal name given to the corrupt mechanics behind India's coal trade - one mired by greed and exploitation.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced plans to double state-produced coal by 2020 in the hopes of meeting India's rapidly rising energy demands. Yet, in the setting of global climate change and emission responsibilities, coal remains one of the dirtiest forms of energy production.

Set in the bleak and naturally striking scenery of Jharia, this story looks into the difficult lives of people governed by coal and at the mercy of corporations. The story of those buried underneath India’s billion dollar power race - the dirty end of a dirty business.
Villagers in Laltanganj, on the outskirts of Jharia, point towards the several open coal seam fires and smoke vents that surround their village. All day and night the fires rage and spread just below the surface, spewing  noxious fumes into the air which often cause respiratory problems and skin diseases for the people living here.
On the outskirts of Jharia, in the village of Laltanganj, a large open fire burns at night billowing dangerous fumes of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide into the air only meters away from people's homes.
Almost all the poorer inhabitants and villagers of Jharia work in the coal trade, beginning with children as young as five. Here, a group of child scavengers gather outside an opencast mine at dawn preparing to illegally collect coal for sale.
Hundreds of miners carry the collected coal to preparation points to later sell it in Jharia or the nearby city of Dhanbad.
Miners load fresh coking coal inside a Bharat Coking Coal Limited  (BCCL )state-run mine on the outskirts of Jharia. The entire town has expanded in recent decades to become a hub for coal production. Besides state-owned companies like BCCL,  private companies - such as TATA and Deko operate in Jharkhand’s  coal belt as well.
Sakhina Khetu, in her home in Bokapahari, explains how the Jharkhand Rehabilitation and Development Authority (JRDA) is working with Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) to supervise the eviction and resettlement process for villagers living too close to open coal seam fires. Though the resettlement initiative is the largest of its kind, aiming to relocate 300,000 people to Belgharia, 12km away, it's management and execution has been dismal.
Rinku, a pregnant young woman sits on the doorstep of her home in Laltanganj village on the edge of Jharia. 20 meters away, in the background, a large open fire is raging and spewing carcinogenic gases into the air.
Residents of Belgharia township take part in the Chhatt puja ceremony in November on the sides of many new buildings under construction. Delayed construction, undersized rooms and insufficient compensation have left many residents resentful, jobless and fearful of their futures. Many still journey back to Jharia everyday.
Maskan, 12, with her mother in the Dhanbad city hospital. On 17th September 2015 she fell into crevice with an open fire burning. Her right leg and left arm were so severely injured they had to be amputated. The incident occurred on land belonging to Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL), meaning that workers as well as residents within it's limits fall under the company's scope of responsibility and liability. BBCL have refused to acknowledge the incident or respond to Maskan's parents.
Dr S K Bhagania, holds up an X-ray for a coal-mining patient revealing a mass in their lungs. Many locals working in the coal industry and living near the open fires suffer from severe respiratory ailments including tuberculosis, pneumoconiosis and asthma.
New three-story buildings are set for construction on the outskirts of Belgharia. Buildings constructed only three years ago stand caked in coal dust and lacking in sewage managements and electricity infrastructure.
Children play around a line of scorching open fires that runs along the edge of Laltanganj village on the outskirts of Jharia.
Meanwhile, every year in China, pollution causes an estimated 3.5 million deaths.  

Winters see a fetid smog trap Beijing under pollutants from the regions 200 coal-fired power plants where concentration levels hit 40 times what the World Health Organization deems safe. Outside Chinas urban areas, disease rates in communities near chemical, pharmaceutical or power plants hit five times the national average.

For 30 years, Chinas formidable economic expansion has been laced with corruption and negligence; its politics, impelled by crafted stability and censorship. Individuals proclaiming the human price of pollution here have been lost in the fray of millions, or quashed by a common wall of denial and intimidation.
Now, Chinas first watershed opportunity is emerging. February 2013 saw the first state acknowledgment of prevalent and deadly Cancer Villages. $350 billion was allocated to tackle air and water contamination, and in March, premier Li Keqiang declared an all-out war on Chinas pollution.

Every day, as the toll continues to rise, we investigate whether individual victims continue being treated as collateral damage; whether government policies and funds trickle down to genuine effect; and indeed, whether coming developments can empower Chinas increasingly educated, global population to face up to the very real, human and ecological consequences of its growth.

This sample of images is from an ongoing body of work shot over three trips between 2013-2015.
[HDR composite image] Déshì Guirong, a local farmer, looks out over the vast open-cast mining ground that once used to be his family's pastural lands on the outskirts of Qian’an, 220km east of Beijing. Since China's crackdown on urban pollution, private firms have moved to village lands where labour is cheap and resistance from often corrupt authorities less.
Jamyang moved to Beijing after the desertification of her farm in Inner Mongolio. Her youngest son died of colon cancer in 2010 due to chromium poisoning from a waste dumping site near their village, and her husband committed suicide after. She now lives on the outskirts of Beijing with her elder son, working as a street vendor. She is one of China's growing generation of eco-migrants.
A wastewater discharge pipe for the Youngor textiles factory in the Yinzhou district near Ningbo. A Greenpeace investigation into the company, which supplies to Zara, Addidas & Top Shop, revealed severe negligence and malpractice. The toxic waste-water is pumped out every morning between 3-5am. 3km downstream the same water is used by local villages.
A street scene in Nuguang village, on the outskirts of Xingtai - a "cancer village" where life continues under the shadow of the surrounding, highly-polluting, coal-fire power plants. Cancer villages have been identified all around the country nearby pollution hotpsots, classified as such due to local cancer rates being over 10 times the national average.
Since 2000, Beijing's permanent population has increased by an average of nearly 600,000 annually to reach 20.69 million at the end of 2012. The metropolis is currently in a development dilemma due to smog, traffic jams, strained resources and unsustainable population growth.
Cuifen and her daughter collect water from a landfill site in the shadows of a recently closed factory in Beijing. Having moved from Hubei province in search of work opportunities and better schooling, they struggled with the capital's higher cost of living and job competition. Cuifen now works as a ragpicker, and her daughter is currently not attending school.
Pipes from rare-earth metal refineries near Baiyan-Obo moving toxic waste-water to a dumping site beyond the town of Baotou, Inner Mongolia. Rare-earth metals are used in everyday electronic products, but are particularly essential in the production of electronics often seen as "green" - from electric hybrid cars to phone chips. Their production, however, involves a vast amount of toxic waste-product. Over 90% of the world's supply of these metals comes from Inner Mongolia.