An Assessment of Environmental Impact of Coalmines on the Local Inhabitants: A Case Study of North Eastern Coalfields, Margherita, Assam

By Sahoo, Dukhabandhu; Bhattacharjee, Anamika | Indian Journal of Economics and Business, December 2010 | Go to article overview

An Assessment of Environmental Impact of Coalmines on the Local Inhabitants: A Case Study of North Eastern Coalfields, Margherita, Assam


Sahoo, Dukhabandhu, Bhattacharjee, Anamika, Indian Journal of Economics and Business


Abstract

The present study attempted to explore the health condition and health awareness among the local inhabitants residing near the coalmine areas of North Eastern Coalfields, Margherita, Assam in the light of a micro-level study conducted with the help of a pre-designed interview schedule through door-to-door survey and personal interviews which is supported by secondary database. The study revealed that due to lack of awareness and negligence on the causes and the impacts of environmental pollution the local inhabitants residing near the collieries make them susceptible to severe health hazards.

I. INTRODUCTION

Coal industry is one of the core industries which played an important role in the industrial development of almost all the countries in the world. In other words, we can say that, industrial development of any country in the world has not taken place without the use of coal or any fossil fuel. Coal industry is recognized as one of the bedrock of industrial sector as they provide the basic material for the most of the industries. It has the highest forward linkages effect with steel, cement, fertilizers, electric, power and a number of other industries. Coal mining is one of the core industries, which contributes to the economic development of a country and undoubtedly brings wealth and employment opportunity in the area. But simultaneously leads to extensive environmental degradation, which, in turn, has an adverse and hazardous impact on the health condition of the workers working in the coalmines as well as the people residing near the collieries.

Mining operations frequently involve a high degree of environmental impacts, which can extend well beyond the extent of mineralized areas. An assessment of the environmental and health impact of the operation of coalmines has become essential and pre-requisite over the years. The environmental consent associated with industries especially fossil fuels are serious and development planners cannot ignore this fact. The CSE's study on mining, people and environment (2006) pointed out that mining cannot be sustainable or truly environment-friendly. This is because ore bodies are finite and non-renewable and even the best managed mines leave "environmental footprints". Mining leads to severe and extensive deterioration of the environment and thereby resulting in an adverse and hazardous impacts on the health of the people-both workers of coalmines as well as the people residing near the coalmine areas.

Studies on environmental impacts of coalmines revealed that the total dissolved solids, sulphate, hardness & iron contents leached in the rivers from the coalmines results in acid mine drainage problem leading to underground and surface water contamination which are highly toxic and injurious to health (Singh, 1987; Tiwari and Dhar, 1994; Tiwari, 2001; Swer and Singh, 2003). Air pollution caused by the emission of suspended particulate matter (SPM), respirable particulate matter (RPM), Sulphur dioxide (S[O.sub.2]) and oxides of nitrogen (N[O.sub.x]) due to the operation of coalmines results in severe health hazards to the exposed population (Pandey, 2000; Ghosh & Majee, 2003; Ghosh & Majee, 2007). The environmental problems associated with coal, before mining, during mining, in storage, during combustion and post combustion waste products results in severe impact on the human health (Finkelman et al, 2002). First affected persons for opening or closing of any type of industries are the local people. Thus it is prerequisite to have a detailed study of the environmental impact of the industries and their impacts on the local inhabitants. The present study attempted to explore the health condition and health awareness among the local inhabitants residing near the coalmine areas of North Eastern Coalfields, Margherita, Assam in the light of a micro-level study conducted with the help of a pre-designed interview schedule through door-to-door survey and personal interviews. …

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