An underground fire at Karo jungle in Bokaro on Wednesday. Picture by Pankaj Singh
Underground fires, raging in over a dozen areas of Bermo sub-division, are spreading fast, forcing Bokaro deputy commissioner Sunil Kumar to write to officials of Central Coalfields Ltd (CCL) and general managers of local collieries.
“I cannot leave the matter like this and have asked GMs of all collieries to rush and find out ways to douse the fire,” said Kumar explaining why he had sent the May 4 letter.
Having already affected various spots of state highways linking CCL areas to Bokaro Thermal, Kathara, Ramgarh and Chandrapura, the fires now pose a serious threat to railway tracks on the Gomoh-Barkakana route.
The fires, that have also claimed vast areas lined with sal and sheesham trees, have been spotted at Karo jungle, Hiria Tungri, Baidkaro Basti, Kargali Excavation, Bermo Sim, Amlo Colliery, Kargali Colliery and
several areas of Dhori and Kathara collieries.
Anurag Kumar, GM of Bokaro-Kargali (B&K) Colliery, has ordered filling up of these pits to douse the underground fire and has dumped tonnes of ash and sand to control the blaze.
But so far, these measures have not proved to be effective, prompting GMs of several collieries to send SOS to CCL headquarters, asking for technical experts.
Coal fires, explained geologist R.K .P Srivastav, were a natural occurrence and was as widespread as forest fires. “But, if coal sim gets exposed after after illegal mining then the problem gets aggravated,” added former senior general manager of Coal India now living in at Bokaro steel city R.P. Singh.
Exposure to the pollution caused by these continuous fires are disastrous.
“Smoke from these fires contains poisonous gases such as oxides and dioxides of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur, which along with particulate matter, are the causes of several lung and skin diseases,” said senior Bokaro physician Pramod Kumar.
Giridih MP Ravindra Pandey, who raised the issue of underground fires in the region in the Lok Sabha recently, has also written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, requesting him to issue necessary directives to coal ministry officials.
Local politicians belonging to the BJP, JMM, Congress, JVM Ajsu and JD(U), including the likes of Gomia MLA Madhowlal Singh, Congress leader Rajendra Singh, JMM MLA Jagganath Mahto, have also sent separate letters to the state government seeking its immediate intervention.