Millions of people in India, directly or indirectly, depend on the coal sector for their livelihood.
Ensuring a transition that is just for the survival of many such people is at the heart of India’s energy transition debate.
During a visit to three districts of Jharkhand – Chatra, Hazaribagh and Dhanbad – Mongabay-India interacted with many people who would be the hardest hit if the coal button is switched off without ensuring an alternate livelihood plan.
An emblem of the British mining history, canary birds were used to indicate when dangerous gases were collected in a mine, signalling danger for humans. While this use of the birds is long gone, the phrase ‘canaries in a coal mine’, indicating impending danger, is increasingly relevant in India’s journey as it transitions from coal to cleaner sources of energy. The looming danger is that if the transition is not just and not done in a carefully planned manner, it could severely impact the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in India.
The coal sector in India is an entire ecosystem. It is estimated that 13 to 20 million people are, directly or indirectly, dependent on coal for their livelihoods.
What happens to these people as India pursues its clean energy commitments? As policymakers, subject experts, and activists focus on estimations and numbers, there is a blind spot toward an integral element – the people.
This photo essay documents three districts of Jharkhand, prominent for coal mining – Chatra, Hazaribagh, and Dhanbad – and the people who would be the hardest hit if the transition out of coal is done in an unplanned manner.
This piece was produced in collaboration with Carbon Copy.