Mining activity by public sector Steel Authority of India causes severe health issues in two Jharkhand villages
The local administration, admitting that the only source of drinking water in the region is polluted due to the mines, said the issue had been raised before the SAIL authorities.
CHIRIA VILLAGE (MANOHARPUR, JHARKHAND): Life has been tough for more than 250 families of two villages located near the Chiria mines in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand. Mining activity by the public sector Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) has polluted their river and turned their fields infertile and causes a host of health problems, allege the residents of Binua and Chiria villages.
Solid dust particles containing heavy metals released during mining activities not just pollute the air but have also contaminated the river Hamsagadha, the only source of water for the people in the two villages. Adding to their woes, the villagers say, is the huge heap of mining dust that seeps into their agricultural land, especially during rains, turning the fields infertile.
Residents claim they have written to government authorities, including Union Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, deputy commissioner of the district and the block development officer concerned, but nothing has been done. “The problem has increased in the last 10 years. The river, earlier known as Hamsagadha, is now called Chiria nala (drain). All thanks to mining,” said Gram Munda of Chiria village, Vijay Singh Lagori. “Since wells and hand pumps are not successful here, the river water contaminated with iron has become our only source of water,” Lagori added. Health issues like diarrhoea and skin ailments are common, he rued.
Farming — the only source of living for the residents — has been hit. “Huge heap of mining waste dumped near the village seeps into our fields and damage the crops,” said Gram Pradhan of Binua village, Amar Singh Sidhu. “No one is ready to listen to us. The state government says our problems will be taken care of by Manoharpur Ore Mines as the area comes under its jurisdiction,” he added.
The local administration, admitting that the only source of drinking water in the region is polluted due to the mines, said the issue had been raised before the SAIL authorities. “We are aware of the problems. We had met the former general manager in this regard asking him to set up a water treatment plant. But nothing has been done so far,” said Block Development Officer of Manoharpur, Jitendra Kumar Pandey.
SAIL officials deny that the river is getting polluted only due to mining, saying that there were other factors contributing to the residents’ woes. “We are a mechanised mine. So generation of red water or other mining waste is minimum here,” said a senior SAIL official. The area is rich in red soil due to which the river water is red, he added. “Even then, we have plans to set up a water treatment plant in Chiria,” the official said.“People living close to the mine want SAIL to solve all their problems. They must understand that there are certain things beyond SAIL’s capacity and must be addressed by the state government,” he added.