Can't believe no solution to Jharkhand coal fires: Khurshid



New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said Thursday that he could not believe that there was no solution to the underground fires in the coal fields of Jharia, in BJP-ruled Jharkhand, that has been smoking for 25 years.

"I cannot believe that for 25 years India has not found a solution to put out coal fires in Jharkhand..., dousing a fire that is consuming lakhs and lakhs of tonnes of coal," Khurshid said, while speaking at the inauguration of the Energy Security Conference here.

He said "for the sake of shifting a small population, some people not interested for political interest" were not seeking ways to put out the fires. "I don't believe we don't have the technology to douse the fire."

The Jharia coalfields in Dhanbad district are referred to as "cremation ground" as many homes have been engulfed by the underground fire.

According to experts, the Jharia mines contain 1,000 million tonnes of coal deposits and these can be extracted only when the people are shifted to other places and efforts are made to extinguish the fire.

The Jharia mines were opened for coal mining in 1896. The underground fire was detected for the first time in 1916. It started spreading during the 1970s.

On the protests about safety of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu, Khurshid said: "I think we have to be sensitive to concerns of those who say it is dangerous...but I think it is not less dangerous than pollution in the air from coal and from burning fossil fuels."

The Kudankulam project has witnessed massive anti-nuclear plant protests for some months. India's atomic power plant operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) is building two 1,000 MW reactors with Russian equipment at Kudankulam since 2001.

IANS