“See, I got blood cancer right from the time the plant started coming up. By the time it had been built, my kidney problems had also begun. I spend Rs 9000 for 30 tablets from PGI every month.”
— Rajkmar Devi, 50, Anapara town, bordering Anpara Thermal Power plant.
LEFT: ANPARA THERMAL POWER PLANT
RIGHT:RAJKUMAR DEVI, ANPARA TOWN
The day starts for the government school beside her house with a thorough sweep and sprinkle, but the black soot remains settled deep within the cracks of the floors. In summer, the coal-dust storms often turn day into night, even as the teachers and children tie their scarves tightly around their faces while singing the National Anthem.
LEFT: ASH, NEAR JAYANT MINES
RIGHT: GOVERNMENT SCHOOL, ANPARA
Jagat Narayan Viswakarma, a petitioner in the National Green Tribunal's case in 2013 against the Union Government of India for pollution in the area, estimates that about 500 deaths occur every year here. Rarely, though, if ever, is the cause of death ascribed to heavy metal contamination.
LEFT: JAYANT OPEN CAST MINES
RIGHT: PHOTO OF RAJU WHO DIED OF A 'STOMACH AILMENT’, GARIYA
“My father died of Tuberculosis in 2014. By 2015, I got it. I was 10 years old when he fell ill, and had to leave my studies to work. The house is in God’s hands now,” says 17-year-old Rohit Kumar who is living out his father’s destiny. In desperation, his mother Sukhraj Devi would collect loose coal at night which she'd sell in order to pay for her husband's treatment. After his death, she travelled all over for her son's treatment - from Ashram, Badwahi and Renusagar to NTPC, Anpara and Buxar - but Rohit still remains bed-ridden.
LEFT: ANGEETHIS (OVENS) AT CHILKADAND
RIGHT: ROHIT KUMAR, CHILKADAND
Ash slurry from the Belvadah Ash pond, disposed of by NTPC Shaktinagar and Vidhyachal Thermal Power Plants, overflows into Rihand Dam. Even the committee constituted to look into the NGT case, chaired by AB Akolkar, Member Secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), shared its concern over the contamination of the Rihand river - the main water source of the area. Ash pipes of several thermal power plants have leaks, which also adds to the contamination of fields and ground water.
LEFT: VISHAL, 8 YEARS FLUORIDE PATIENT, BICCHI, GARIYA
RIGHT: ASH PIPELINE LEAK
A study in 2012, conducted by Delhi-based non-profit organisation Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), confirmed that Fluoride, Mercury and Arsenic were all higher than the permissible limits in most water, soil and fish samples tested. It also revealed that over 84% of the blood samples of the local population contained mercury above the safe level. Environmentalists warn, mental retardation among the people will only spread over time.
LEFT: A MURAL, AMROLI RELIANCE REHABILITATION COLONY
RIGHT: MENTALLY-RETARDED DAUGHTER OF A MINE LABOURER, CHILKADAND
Look what my hands have become! When I come home after driving,
I wash my hands repeatedly but within minutes, they’re the same. All of us who work in the mines cough constantly. When the phlegm comes out, it’s black in colour. Coal kills one’s appetite. Whatever I’m earning goes into medicines anyway. My future? Whatever I do in these 2, 4 or maximum 5 years, I’ll do, and then my story is over. When my body stops delivering, no company will keep us.”
— Vimlesh Sawhney, 40, open-cast mine driver, working for the last 15 years with a contractor of Northern Coal Limited Coal Mines.
LEFT: VIMLESH SAWHNEY’s HAND, CHILKADAND
RIGHT: COMPANY LOGO OF A FIST, COAL TRUCK DEPOT OF NCL JAYANT COAL MINES
“Burnt coal emits so much gas, sometimes it feels like my body itself will catch fire. When the dump spills into our cabin, the glass breaks and our heads get smashed. After some basic first-aid, the company just asks us to go. After sucking our blood, the company says go, you are of no use to us now.”
— Vimlesh Sawhney, 40, open-cast mine driver, Chilkadand.
Chilkadand village stands precariously at the edge of the Northern Coalfields open cast mine. During the monsoon, the dumps from the mine frequently spill into Chilkanand.
LEFT: JAYANT MINES
RIGHT: VIMLESH SAWHNEY, CHILKADAND
“We are realising that this is all happening due to water - it is the fluoride that is polluting us. They tell us not to drink from the well, not to drink from the hand pump. So where should we drink water from? My whole family, our two kids have become handicapped. We have become disabled, both my wife and I, and our spines have bent. Our bodies have no life, no strength, no power at all.”
— Laleram Yadav, Gariah, 10 kms away from Anpara Thermal Power Plant.
LEFT: LALERAM YADAV’s WIFE AND SON
RIGHT: ASH SLURRY
The red, stagnant lake at Pipragaon Nayi Basti, 20 kms from Obra Thermal Power Plant, tested positive for pollutants with far higher-than-permissible limits. Lying in the direct direction of the wind blowing from the plant, the lake stands testimony to the continual passage of arsenic, mercury and fluoride in the air. This exceeds the15 km safe-radius that the government recognizes. For bedridden patients of the Basti like Vijay Kumar and Vindhyanchal, hope too lies forgotten.
LEFT: RED LAKE, PIPRAGAON NAYIBASTI
RIGHT: VIJAY KUMAR SHARMA, PIPRAGAON NAYI BASTI
“During our time, there was no illness. In the last 10-15 years, it is everywhere. Those days, the water was not like this. Now, the water itself is the illness! My whole body has got jammed like iron. Only my hands move a little. Whatever little moves, I move. I eat, I shit, everything I do is on this cot only. How long can I live like this? ”
— Vindhyachal, 70-year-old patient
RIGHT: VINDHYACHAL, PIPRA GAON NAYI BASTI