By Ranjeet Kumar:
The dilemma of development comes with the long lasting environmental footprints and Jharkhand is no exception to it. The very concept of Water, Forest and Land `Jal, Jungle, Zameen´ has been hit adversely by human activities. Jharkhand which is the hot spot for most of the Coal and iron ore reserves along with mica and various other mineral resources has not seen the sun of sustainability even after sixty five years of independence of India. Mining in this area has displaced tribal and local inhabitants, has taken there cultivable land and has massively indulged in mass deforestation which ruined the ecological equilibrium. In order to satiate the energy hunger mining is inevitable but is there any way out to address the problem in a way that incorporates elements of sustainability. Crusaders have raised these issues strongly but the result so far has not been far reaching. Further it’s important to mention here that the Prime Minister’s remark to ministers and bureaucrats about not getting carried away by environmental objections while creating an investment friendly climate in the country adds to further frustration.
A recent report from CSE in the magazine ´Down to Earth´ (November 15th Issue) titled Silence is the best policy which unveils the sad story of mercury poisoning in coal mines of Singrauli and Sonbhadra in the border of UP and MP which supposedly is the energy capital of India has provoked me to write on the issue. I feel the situation is no different in many areas of Jharkhand as metal toxicity is bound to happen in the entire mining circuit. It’s well known that anthropogenic activities such as mining are responsible for groundwater pollution. In addition to it the rivers and lakes in the area are heavily contaminated by toxic metals. Reports have indicated that the water table has reduced significantly. People living in the mining belt are digging deep enough; they do find water in the wells but it’s not portable anymore as most of them has oily leachates. The small streams, lakes and ponds have become black and completely silted by coal dust. It is important to mention here that there has been adverse effect on the aquatic life in these water bodies.
The Chota Nagpur plateau that covers Jharkhand has two main rivers Damodar and Subarnarekha and both of these rivers fall in the mining hotspots. Ironically major polluting units are government enterprises which includes iron and steel, coal washeries, zinc, glass and cement to name a few has slowly poisoned life in the area by disposing their effluents in to the river stream. These rivers have now been a depository of heavy metal, sludge and had slowly turned filthy and bear obnoxious odour. Radioactive wastes and copper have also found their way in Swarnrekha. The quality of water in these rivers has significantly deteriorated and has affected the ecosystem at large. In nutshell the mining and its allied activities has changed the ecological landscape and hydrological regime of the reason.
The bottom line is the `Jal Jungle and Zameen` all seems to be at threat. The displacement of tribal, snatching their cultivable land, alienating them from their ethnological niche is bound to bring disaster of a different dimension. Are we on an odyssey to collective suicide on the name of development is the question. The damage incurred till date is not fixed yet and there are more in the pipeline. It’s high time that efforts to monitor environmental imprints, introduction of sustainable mining practices, and effective effluent disposal are immediately addressed.