Jharia Territory India, 2007/2010
Hell on Earth has a name: Jharia. This territory of Jharkhand is, historically, a land of exploitation, one of the largest coal deposits in India. But a hundred years ago, fire broke out in one of the countless mine galleries dug in its bowels. Since then, the outbreak has spread. Drastic measures, consisting of pouring concrete to a depth of hundreds of metres, could perhaps isolate the disaster. But the British and then Indian authorities have always refused to do so. Also the veins catch fire one after the other. With, above, the city and its old palaces, its wealthy villas for engineers and mining company managers, but also its barracks and squalid shelters reserved for the coal proletariat. Half a million people live on this huge blaze like on a volcano, promised to the apocalypse.
A pursuit race has begun to extract as much unburned coal as possible, under truly Dantean conditions. We see bulldozers being watered with a water lance so that they can excavate. Smoke, smoke and sulphurous fumes escape from some open-pit mines, and fires are urgently filled with stone and rubble. The once green landscapes, which sheltered elephants, tigers and antelopes, are unrecognizable.
Thousands of daily workers, former tribals, untouchables and poor from all over India, depend on this coal economy. Many work in the mines, loading wagons. They are also allowed to steal and traffic the precious ore - just enough to survive. These men no longer have an identity, like all these faces constantly blackened by carbon dust.