Jharkhand, in eastern India, is the country’s richest state in terms of mineral resources. Yet it is one of the poorest in terms of lack of governance, and involvement of local communities in development decisions.
The newly established state (formerly part of Bihar) has a large share of India’s indigenous populations, many of whom have been affected by the rapid expansion of large-scale coal mining. The mines have increasingly turned into highly mechanised, open cast operations. The impact on local natural resources has been devastating.
Together with Panos South Asia, we worked with the local organisation Prerana Resource Centre to collect and communicate testimonies from those who have lost land, homes and a way of life to the coal industry. The majority of the displaced were tribal people, whose relationship with the environment is particularly strong.
The project team developed a range of local and national activities to raise awareness of the situation. They have held a roundtable meeting, gained television and radio coverage, and produced a media pack.
Extracts from the testimonies
“Here I see only dust, coal, and coal fires, and the trucks’ noise. In my house there was no noise, no dust. Everywhere you looked there was greenery… now the paddy fields have been mined and we have to work loading coal as labourers to eke out a living…”
Phulmani (female), 30 years old
“…there were plenty of streams and springs…with which we irrigated our fields. But CCL dug a canal that changed their course…The whole water system has been destroyed. The forests and grazing land are all gone…The entire environment has become polluted by smoke and gas… CCL didn’t really give us compensation for our land – rather they looted us…The compensation was worthless.”
Bhajhu (male), 80 years old
“Earlier, there was a lot of forest…and enough grazing land too, which is why we raised a lot of livestock…their manure would give us such good crops. Now of course all our land has gone to the mines… because we were uneducated and unaware, we agreed to their terms. Now…we find it very difficult to live and to feed ourselves… forest produce was one of our main sources of livelihood…[its] destruction has had a very big impact…”
Jharni (female), 75 years old
“CCL wants to break us up and resettle us in different areas because they know that if we stay together we will speak with one voice. As it is they have weakened us [and] our Santhali culture is facing disintegration… The opening of the colliery and the coming of outsiders has had a big effect on us… The biggest harm that the colliery has done is that we are losing our own identity.”
Somar (male), 70 years old