A short documentary investigation into the human toll of power expansion in India
Jharia lies at the heart of India's 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.
In 2016, 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 short documentary 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.
Reporting & Camera
Melanie Cura Daball
Jharia Coal Bachao Samiti