Rajhara Coal Block- Story of Coal Production in India
India gets 59% of its power from Coal. States like Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhatisgarh depend on Coal for the state of the economy in the respective state. A recent coal block de-allocation, by the Supreme Court of India, resulted in major shortfall of power across the country. Coal in many ways drives the state of power in the country.
Coal and its mining have had a long history in India. Commercial mining began as far back as 1774, when John Summers and Suetonius Grant Heatly, started it in Raniganj Coalfield. East India Company was the mainstay at that time for the production of the coal. The production of coal got a major boost when railway was introduced in India in the year 1853. It instilled a new lease of life in the transportation of coal to various parts of India.
On a visit to Daltonganj, which is a major city for the coal production, One World News explored the production of coal in Rajhara Coal Fields.
Daltonganj is an urban suburb north-west of, the capital of Jharkhand, Ranchi. Daltonganj, with a population of more than 6 millions, holds major importance due to its economic activities. A half an hour ride from Daltonganj will land you up at Rajhara. Rajhara is a small village which is famous for major coal production. The coal field comes in the valley of Koel river, which is a tributary to Son River. The coal from Rajhara is one of the better coals with only 17% ash content.
Coal extraction in Rajhara dates as far back as 1842. The extraction remained passive to a certain extent till 1931. After that, railway communication was established with East Indian Railway line via Son River Valley. Prior to that the coal used to be dispatched by boats through Koel river. Ever since after that the coal production has increased to some 70-80 thousand tons annually.
Currently Central Coalfields Limited (CCL) operates in the region. The people in Rajhara has benefitted with the increase in the production. The unemployment rates have dropped down and the biggest asset for the village is the improved electricity in recent times. Sarwan, a habitant of the village, says, “Sir, the plant has made our lives better. The biggest improvement has been in the state of electricity. Earlier the condition was very bad”.
Rail transport is another major boost that the area has got. Daltonganj, from where the transportation commences, is well connected to major cities like New Delhi and Kolkata. The railway station of the city has seen expansion in recent years and the trade in the area has come up to a decent number.
A.K. Thakur, General Manager of Rajhara coal field, says, “We are working very hard to increase coal output. As you know most of the power generation in the country happens with coal. It is critical to the economy. The ministry has given a lot of guidelines to increase the output. We collaborate with the locals whenever there arises any need for it. I am happy that the area is getting attention from mainstream media. It will create awareness and put the area on the wider map.”
The extraction has its share of adverse effect in the area. Waste management, water wastage and air pollution are some of the most basic challenges the area faces. Underground water is pumped out continuously which results in deficient ground water levels. Fly ash, bottom ash and flue-ash desulfurization sludge are some of the by-products of the extraction. Levels of mercury, uranium, arsenic and other heavy metals are very high in the area.
“There are large numbers of trucks plying to and fro from this area. It creates a lot of dust as the area has no concrete road. All of our soil has turned black due to the spilling of coal while transportation”, Ashok Dubey.
The life at the village has improved in recent years due to the economic buzz surrounding the coal block. With more demand the extraction activities are certain to go up. It will be a huge challenge to sustain the environment of the area. At the same time it throws up employment opportunities for the local youngsters. Jharkhand is already a Maoist dominant area and employment generation is critical in tackling the menace of Maoism.
Picture Credits: Neel Kamal Pandey, OneWorldNews.