Images of India: Government douses century-old coal fires…

22520239The government is determined to move more than 100,000 people living near coalfields in eastern India to new homes, making it easier to douse underground fires that have burned for a century to enable mine huge reserves of premium coal. Many families are squatters who rely on casual work from contractors working the mines and on free water pumped to the settlements. The glowing coals and rising smoke date back to 1916. The burning deposits of Jharia, in Jharkhand are particularly prized because they are the only source of top quality steelmaking coal in the country. India spends US$4 billion a year on importing that grade alone. Fires have already devoured about 37 million tonnes of coal and blocked access to 2 billion tonnes more, theoretically worth US$220 billion. Reviving output of the coal sector is now a priority and will hopefully secure continuous power to all and eat into an annual coal import bill of US$15 billion (S$20.2 billion).