Jharia Burning


At the center of Dhanbad City, in the Jharia region of northeastern India, amid a handful of concrete buildings, stands the enormous bronze statue of a coal miner. He is shirtless, muscular, and handsome. He strides doggedly forward, a mining helmet on his head, a pickax slung over his shoulder. The message is clear: Coal is my life. The area around Dhanbad produces India’s highest grade of coking coal, which in turn fuels the blast furnaces used for smelting steel. Contained in twenty-three large underground mines and nine open cast mines across an expanse of 450 square kilometers, Jharia’s heart of coal also produces power: two thirds of all electricity in India is generated in coal-fired plants. The earth beneath Jharia contains one of the largest coal reserves in the world. But the coal is also on fire.

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