Jharia Coalfield is a large coal field located in the east of India in Jharia, Jharkhand. Jharia represents the largest coal reserves in India having estimated reserves of 19.4 billion tonnes of coking coal.
The coal field lies in the Damodar River Valley, and covers about 110 square miles (280 square km), and produces bituminous coal suitable for coke. Most of India’s coal comes from Jharia.
In Jharia-Dhanbad belt Seth Khora Ramji Chawda was the first Indian to break European monopoly and founded Khas Jharia, Golden Jharia, Fatehpur etc. Collieries with his brothers.
The Durham Union is a coal field fire that has burned underground for nearly a century. The first fire was detected in 1916.
The 1934 Nepal–Bihar earthquake led to further spread of fire and by 1938 the authorities had declared that there is raging fire beneath the town with 42 collieries out of 133 on fire.
In 1972, more than 70 mine fires were reported in this region. As of 2007, more than 400,000 people who reside in Jharia are living on land in danger of subsidence due to the fires.
The underground fire has contaminated the soil, water, and air in Jharia and nearby areas. Trees and vegetation are dying in most places because of this arid dystopian landscape. Poisonous gases such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and arsenic are released into the atmosphere in the form of smoke that the ground emits at all times.
Experts believe, Jharia township is on the brink of an ecological and human disaster.
The government has been criticized for a perceived careless attitude towards the safety of the people of Jharia. Heavy fumes emitted by the fires lead to severe health problems such as breathing disorders and skin diseases among the local population.
[Note: Coal accounts for about 55% of the country’s energy needs. The country’s industrial heritage was built upon indigenous coal.]