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Resources, Energy, and Development
Year : 2007, Volume : 4, Issue : 1
First page : ( 71) Last page : ( 87)
Print ISSN : 0973-0516.

Subsurface coal fires in the Raniganj coalbelt: investigating their causes and assessing human impacts

Lahiri-Dutt Kuntala1,*Fellow, Gangopadhyay Prasun K2PhD Candidate

1Resource Management in Asia Pacific Program Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University ACT 0200, Canberra, Australia. E-mail: kuntala.lahiri-dutt@anu.edu.au

2ESA Department, International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) Hengelostraat, P.O. Box 6, 7500 AA, Enschede The Netherlands. E-mail: prasun@itc.nl, Ph: +31-53-4874248, Fax: +31-53-4874336.

*Corresponding author

Abstract

Ensuring or enhancing the security of humans from environmental hazards has been a significant agenda of environmental practitioners in the recent years. Some of these hazards are not visible and may be of a semipermanent or permanent nature. Subsurface fires in coal mining regions threaten human security, both directly indirectly, because in developing countries mining regions are densely inhabited and urbanized. Often, the existence of the fire is detected only after the damage is done. This article links the risk of subsurface coal fires and human security issues by identifying and locating villages in a coal mining region in eastern India. For this purpose, Landsat thermal data (Landsat-5 TM6) of April 1997 has been used in combination with official statistics to locate the buried hot features in order to calculate the number of people at risk in this densely populated mining-industrial-urban belt. The populations and the occupational characteristics of the fire-affected villages have been sourced from the latest available Census 2001 data and their significance discussed. Finally, some recommendations are made for improving human security in the fire-prone coal mining regions of India.

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