Underground fires have been burning in the small dusty coal town of Jharia in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand for more than 80 years now. All efforts to put out the fires have been in vain. Photos: ©Arindam Mukherjee: BBC
In places like Laltenganj, the fires are now burning overground.
In the Kujama slum, authorities have put up a notice asking the slum-dwellers to evacuate the area as the coal mine fire threatens the village and its residents. But people here are too poor to move from their crumbling shelters, and continue to live in the area, risking their lives.
A man walks through the rubble of a house at Indra chowk, located on the border of Jharia town. The residents say that fire has spread to their homes in the last 10 years.
Many miners and their family members negotiate the burning pits to find chunks of coal they can sell in the illegal market to make some money on the side. Here, a young girl carries a basket of coal taken from the opencast pit.
Fire-induced landslides have killed at least five people in the last five years.
Days in Jharia are hot and smelly and bring drafts of nauseating air from the burning pits and nearby coal mines.
Although the area is not fit for human habitation, many poor people who work in the coal mines live here. Here, financial worries take precedence over concerns for safety.
Here, a young girl makes her way through the poisonous gases and fumes originating from the burning coal beneath the surface. The temperature here is so high and the air quality so poor that people have developed many health complications.
After years of extensive coverage in the media of the appalling conditions in the area, the authorities have announced a rehabilitation project.
A resident of Kujama slum, 75-year-old Sarala Devi is an asthma patient. More than 60% of the population in the region is sick. Dangerous pollutants from the gases, fumes and coal dust are devastating human lives here.
The fire and the poisonous smoke are affecting the lives of people living in and around the town. In the affected areas, most trees have been burnt into dry stubs and there is little vegetation left.