Illegal mining: A serious problem in India

GD Niveditha, CNS Correspondent
Mining is a very old practice in India. India, as the country is very rich in natural resources, is a leading producer of iron ore and earns a good amount of foreign exchange in coal mining too. It also contributes about 2.2% - 2.5% towards the national GDP (gross domestic product) and these industries provides employment for more than 7,00,000 individuals. But, as it is known, every good thing has a bad side too. Mining in India has seen many scams and scandals such as the illegal mining or improper allocation of coal referred to as Coal-Gate in India. Thus, these not only spoil the reputation of India in buisness, but also leads to increase in social and environmental problems.

For instance, In just two states — Goa and Karnataka, the government lost about Rs 36,000 crore, the money that could feed half the country’s 400 million poor for a year — because of illegally extracted iron ore. Like this, in all the ore-rich states, there is a substantial increase in the number of scams in mining. It has been estimated that the annual budget in illegal mining is about 1 lakh crore.

Besides, this has brought about many social issues too. Reports recently released by NGOs revealed the the desperate and worse conditions of the adivasis, dalits, women and children in the mining areas. They are forced to work in the mines which adversely affects their healthy life, particularly the women dalit and the children.Coal dust inhalation causes black lung disease among miners and those who live nearby, and mine accidents kill thousands every year. The report “India's childhood in the pits” reveals that the literacy level in mining districts is very low, the infant mortality is very high and child labour is rampant. The report “women miners in Rajasthan, India” reveals the harsh everyday life and work for female quarry workers in Rajasthan. The large-scale mining activities, thus, not only lead to the displacement of the adivasis or dalits from their lands, but are also forced to work in the mines.

Another impact is the environmental degradation caused by mining. It causes deforestation, soil erosion,creation of sink holes,contamination of ground water making it unfit for use, loss of biodiversity caused because of legal mining which follows the norms and procedures set up by the Environmental Management System (EMS) very well. If this is the case, one can imagine the pollution caused by illegal mining in India.

The Greenpeace report states that illegal mining ignites  coal fires, which can burn for decades, release fly ash and smoke laden with greenhouse gasses and toxic chemicals. It goes on to state that mining releases coal mine methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.In Goa, illegal mining has caused irreparable damage to forests, agriculture, fisheries and water aquifers. People in the affected areas are also suffering from the adverse effects of air, noise and water pollution. According to the Lokayukta Report, there have been severe ecological changes due to illegal mining in Karnataka. Certain species of animals like the sloth bear have disappeared in the Bellary region. Medicinal plants from the area do not grow anymore. The rainfall pattern has changed in the Bellary district. It is reported that the entire area surrounding the mining area has little greenery and has no agricultural activity.

The government has passed a special commission in order to investigate the various illegal scams in India and try to put a stop to all the activities.However, over the past few years there have been a number of movements led by environmentalists and indigenous people in order to spread awareness and protest against the illegal mining activities and its impact in our lives. It is believed that a change in the society can be brought about only by the participation of the people in struggles and movements.

GD Niveditha, Citizen News Service (CNS)
3 April 2015
(the author is a Class X student and aspires to be an environmentalist)