[Marxism] Nuclear Issues

Sayan Bhattacharyya ok.president+marxmail at gmail.com
Tue Jul 11 10:55:36 MDT 2006

On 7/11/06, Yoshie Furuhashi <critical.montages at gmail.com> wrote:
> "If not nuclear energy, it seems to me that countries would go for
> coal, which would be worse for global warming, though it might revive
> miners' unions."

Please! Even other than causing global warming, explotation of coal creates
immense and disproportionate suffering for the working-class coal miners in
the third world.

Part of the reason why the affluent in the third world (especially NGO type
activists) oppose nuclear energy but are less vocal about coal-based power,
seems to me to have to do with the fact that while the risks of nuclear
power are spread more evenly and thus affect the privileged almost as much
as the poor, the health risks and environmental consequences of coal-based
power are disproportionately borne by the poor and working-class. Coal power
merely looks innocuous to the affluent because the victims are generally not
from the affluent classes, at least until global warming becomes a serious

The following article from the Indian magazine Frontline illustrate the
issue quite well, with an example drawn from India:


Both have very good photographs from Meghalaya and Jharkhand states in India

           Frontline July 1-14, 2006

           Coal calculations


At Ladrymbai in Meghalaya, the lure of coal money threatens social
disruption and environmental devastation.

photo: A COAL MINE on National Highway 44, near Ladrymbai. Women
labourers carry coal filled into traditionally woven baskets from pits such

LADRYMBAI in the Jaintia language means `junction to Rymbai village'.
This obscure village situated on a hillock in the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya
literally emerged as one with the coming of National Highway (NH) 44: it
became a transit point for super-fast buses and goods trucks thundering
their way between Guwahati and Silchar in Assam, and beyond to Manipur
and Mizoram. The highway has also been Ladrymbai's road to ruin as the
village turned into a pit stop for the coal trade.

The road made it possible for people of the area to exploit its coal and
limestone deposits, which cover up to a quarter of the Jaintia Hills and are
estimated to last at least a decade. In the absence of a development plan,
supportive infrastructure, knowledge and skills, communities have engaged
in uncontrolled gouging of the earth. While it has brought a rain of wealth
for some, it has also brought social disruption and environmental
devastation. Ladrymbai perhaps best represents the complexities of a
development process that is turning traditional communities in the
northeastern region into migrants and ecological refugees in their own

Ladrymbai today is a town that never sleeps. At night its barely contained
demons spill out of the narrow gullies - tinsel girls with their pitchers of
country liquor compete with rows of wine shops that boast the highest liquor
sales in the State. In the bylanes, drug peddlers promise a psychedelic trip
with pure grade heroin. Thus, Ladrymbai's nightly ritual of debauchery and
mayhem makes it yet another frontier trading post.

Driving from Jowai, the district headquarters, to Ladrymbai highlights the
contrasting countryside of the Jaintia Hills. Green, gently rolling,
covered hills dramatically give way to a canvas of black. Thousands of
tonnes of coal mined in the interior areas are carried in trucks over the
rugged, unpaved terrain and dumped alongside the highway. Empty trucks
returning from the neighbouring States after delivery of supplies carry this
coal to the plains.

photo: A villa built from coal money in the Jaintia Hills.


Says Rapheael Kyndait of Yongkaluh village in Khlereat block: "One day we
heard a tapping noise coming from under our house and discovered that
people from a neighbouring village were digging coal right under our house.
This led to a huge quarrel, but the problem was finally settled and they
stopped. This kind of activity is happening in many villages. While there is
plenty of mining going on, air and water are becoming impure. Our very
survival is on the brink."

Adds Surej Banerjee, a dealer in motor spare-parts: "I do not like
Ladrymbai, but there is a lot of money here. Our lives are at constant risk
from landslips; the pollution is killing. There is no doctor or health
Coal has destroyed agriculture and water sources. Lack of clean water is
our worst problem. We travel 10-15 km to have a bath once a week or pay
Rs.10 for a tin of water. One survives on ingenuity or dies. If there were
coal here, not a soul would be here."

Land in Meghalaya is tightly held in private and local ownership.
Constitutional provisions under the Sixth Schedule ensure customary rights
and protection of tribal land. But in the rush for wealth, marginal
in the coal belt have sold out to those with larger holdings or to Jaintia
businessmen living in Jowai. Others have entered into benami deals where
the land remains in their name but control is ceded to the non-local who put
in the capital for coal mining.

Politicians plead their inability to do anything as "the land is privately
we cannot interfere in what they do there".


Full articles:



More information about the Marxism mailing list