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More than 250 water springs have gone dry in Chhattisgarh, thanks to the Chirimiri coal mines

Makarand Purohit
25th Apr 2017
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Blasting and drilling around Chirimiri's coal mines have taken a toll on the area's water resources and environment. The film The Dying Springs of Chirimiri presents the community's perspective on this issue.

Coal mining in Chirimiri

Chirimiri Coalfield is a part of Central India Coalfields, located in Koriya district, Chhattisgarh. It is spread over 125 square kilometres, with estimated total reserves of around 312.11 million tonnes. In the last 70 years, more than 250 springs that used to be the primary sources of drinking water for the people of Chirimiri have gone dry due to continuous coal mining. Blasting and drilling around the coal mines have severely affected the movement of water in the underground aquifers, which in turn have impacted the flow of water in the springs. Aquifers take thousands of years to form but are destroyed in mere minutes causing the springs also tend to die or become polluted.

The CMC procures water from the Surbhoka dam near Chirimiri but has not been able to supply water on a daily basis as per CPHEEO norms. "The water supplied by Chirimiri Municipal Corporation (CMC) is not treated properly. Due to water contamination, typhoid cases are are on the rise", says Dr. Jayant Kumar Yadav, Medical Officer, Chirimiri Community Health Centre.

"With the expansion to coal mining in the area in the last 6-7 decades, there is a threat to the existing springs. 20 springs out of 300 have died every 10 years or so. Now, the number of springs in Chirimiri has reduced to 30," says Girish Kumar, senior researcher and resident of Chirimiri. These 30 springs still cater to the drinking water needs of 70-80 percent of Chirimiri's population and are still the first choice of the people, but if the springs die, then it will lead to acute water crises as well as destroy livelihoods.

The demand for spring water in Chirimiri has increased in the last one decade as the people prefer it over the water supplied by the CMC. While the spring water is free, most residents don't want to take the pain of walking to a hilly area to bring water back. Instead, they pay people who can do this for them. Thus, the spring water provides a livelihood to more than 100 families.

"India is a seriously water-stressed nation, and is faced with the prospect of becoming the planet’s most populous country by 2050, with an estimated population of 1.6 billion, while only having 4 percent of the world’s water resources," says a Greenpeace report. It also says, "Coal mining, especially open-cast mining, is responsible for complete environmental destruction, and has huge impacts on local water resources; groundwater needs to be pumped out of the ground, forests needs to be cut down and fertile top soil are removed in order to access the coal; and in the process destroying valuable underground aquifers, streams and rivers."

A film, titled The Dying Springs of Chirimiri, focusses on the devastation of natural resources and its impact on community life in Chirimiri.

Disclaimer: This article, authored by Makarand Purohit, was first published in India Water Portal.

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Makarand Purohit
Makarand Purohit writes for India Water Portal, a website that shares knowledge and builds communities around water and related issues in India. Managed by Arghyam, the portal is a valuable archive of resources, working papers, reports, data, articles, news, events, opportunities and discussions on water.

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