BLACK HELL - PhMuseum

BLACK HELL

Valerie Leonard

2016

Jharkhand, India

BLACK HELL

In the State of Jharkhand, in the northeast of India, the Damodar Valley became a hell on Earth. The open-cast coal mines there took over the forest. These mines have been active without interruption for over a century.

The extraction of the "black diamond", destroyed the fauna, the flora, and upset the topography.

For more than eighty years, a huge underground fire is burning exhaling enormous quantities of carbon dioxide into the air.

All efforts to put out this fire have been in vain.

In the suffocating hostility of this environment a miserable people sacrificed to the economic development of India, works and survives despite the many diseases caused by the toxic atmosphere.

The lucky ones are employed by mining companies. For a dollar a day, men and women break the coal that they carry in wicker baskets on their head to load the trucks.

But the majority of them, by thousands, before dawn, illegally collect coal to sell it at the black market.

Many people are jobless and can not cultivate their fields because groundwater aquifers are polluted by agents deriving from coal combustion.

With about 300 million Indians living without electricity, and faced with a desperate shortage of power to fuel its factories and produce electricity for its growing metropolises, the Indian government plans to double its state-run coal production by 2020. In order to reach this target, Narendra Modi’s had announced in 2015 that he intended to open one new mine per month.

For several weeks I shared this hell with them. Despite their exhausted faces covered in soot, I was deeply moved by their courage and dignity.

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  • BLUE PATH
    Jharia in India’s eastern Jharkhand state is literally in flames. This is due to the open cast coal mining that takes place in this area.
    For more than 80 years, the Jharian coal mines have been alight with coal mining villages of around seven hundred thousand people settling in.
    Most of the mining is done in open-cast as the price to mine is relatively lower to produce profits.
    Underground fires have been burning for all those years now. All efforts to put out the fires have been in vain.
    Everywhere you look, there will be a coal mine.
    And so villagers in Jharia go everyday to scavenge whatever coal there is in the ground to support their families after selling the coal at the black market.
    People here are too poor to move from their crumbling shelters, and continue to live in the area, risking their lives.

  • BLACK HELL
    Scene of end of the world in the coal mines of Jharia.
    It is 6 am.
    Arpita is delousing her mother's hair.
    They took a break before continuing to illegally collect coal and sell it at the black-market of Dhanbad.
    This apocalyptic landscape is their daily life.
    They live in the slums filled with toxic smokes emitted by underground coal fires.

  • BACK TO BLACK
    The lucky ones are employed by mining companies. For a dollar a day, men and women break the coal that they carry in wicker baskets on their head to load the trucks.
    But the majority of them, by thousands, before dawn, illegally collect coal to sell it at the black market.

  • BLACK PLAYGROUND

  • COAL CINDERELLA
    Coal fires spit out enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
    People who live amongst smoke and toxic fumes that constantly seep out of the earth have a life expectancy considerably diminished.

  • MY PRIDE
    Patidev and his daughter.

  • STATUED BABY
    Oxides, sulphur dioxide and suspended particles hanging in the air cause mainly skin and lungs diseases. Most inhabitants suffer from chronic bronchitis, asthma, skin diseases and phneumoconiosys (caused by coal dust).
    Life expectancy does not exceed 50 years.

  • ATLAS
    At around 8 am, some of them are paid 1$ a day to load manually the coal in the trucks.

  • THE LOAD

  • NO RETIREMENT
    At around 8 am, some of them are paid 1$ a day to load manually the coal in the trucks.

  • POSESSED
    Every morning, between 4.00am and 8.00am, in open-cast mines around Jharia in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, thousands of people "pick" coal to sell it and make a living. They do it illegally and that's why early mornings are suitable to dig out coal and carry it up to a strip of land that overlooks the main mining area.
    The process is simple: women and men break coal with their picks and shovels, fill their wicker baskets and carry them on their heads up to the stocking area; the children help in carrying the coal.

  • COAL DUST
    Villagers are suffering from numerous lung diseases caused by air pollution. Many of them are not even aware of that they are sick. People have become used to nose bleeding or breathing trouble

  • COAL VETERAN
    Javir is here with his son.
    He lost his arm in a coal mine accident 10 years ago.

  • DARK MEETING
    With about 300 million Indians living without electricity, and faced with a desperate shortage of power to fuel its factories and produce electricity for its growing metropolises, the Indian government plans to double its state-run coal production by 2020. In order to reach this target, Narendra Modi’s had announced in 2015 that he intended to open one new mine per month.

  • HEAVEN ON HELL
    Coal fires spit out enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
    People who live amongst smoke and toxic fumes that constantly seep out of the earth have a life expectancy considerably diminished.

  • DUSK IN HELL
    Jharia was declared eviction area in the early 1980s, an official master-plan was set-up to re-located hundred of thousands of residents, but displaced people were not given compensation, which increased the resistance of people towards being displaced, be it for mining or for ‘their own safety’ in order to escape the underground flames.

  • RECESS
    Jharia was declared eviction area in the early 1980s, an official master-plan was set-up to re-located hundred of thousands of residents, but displaced people were not given compensation, which increased the resistance of people towards being displaced, be it for mining or for ‘their own safety’ in order to escape the underground flames.

  • OPEN SHOWER

  • PIRATE COAL
    They will walk, barefoot, more than 6 kilometers pushing their bike loaded with 300 kilogrammes of coal.

  • BLACK MARKET
    Dhanbad, 8 am.
    It's already been 4 hours since the men started working with their families.
    They picked up the coal in the open cast mines.
    Very early the morning, the security guards take their shift and the families who steal coal must stop their illegal activities.
    These men arrive to sell their coal at the black market.
    They walked, barefoot, more than 6 kilometers pushing their bike loaded with 300 kilogrammes of coal.


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