Mrunal Manmay Dash

The residents of Talcher in Odisha’s Angul district have been spending sleepless nights after the recent earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria killing several thousands.

And interestingly, their anxiety is not unfounded as well. The coal-city of Talcher is said to be 'awaiting disaster', with many homes in the town developing cracks and sinkholes developing in several parts of the town.

With rampant mining of coal by the Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL) from underneath the Talcher town and alleged faulty sand-filling, the residents are staring at a grim future.

Some residents even fear, if a high magnitude quake hits the region, their fate is all but sealed. Many fear that the town will collapse into the hollow mine underneath the surface like a deck of cards.

As per reports, MCL is mining coal from 13 coal fields in the area, out of which eight are opencast mines and five are underground mines. MCL is supposed to fill sand from the Brahmani River after extracting coal from the underground mines. However, it has been alleged that the sand-filling process is faulty which is resulting in development of cracks on the surface.

A local resident, Balaram Pati said, “God forbid if an earthquake hits Talcher, the town will have a little chance to survive. Both the State and the Centre should take the situation into consideration and make arrangements to fill the underground hollow spots with sand as soon as possible.”

It is pertinent to mention here that the Talcher town is sitting on the earthquake zone number-3.

The miners association blamed MCL and the district administration accusing them of negligence.

“People of Talcher are scared because of cracks in their houses, and sinkholes in their backyard. The district administration is not putting any pressure on the MCL to fill the sand properly after mining coal,” alleged Ranjit Mohapatra, Convenor of Underground Coal Mine Association.

BJP said, despite several protests, the elected representatives are not raising the issue in the Assembly or the Parliament, which is why the MCL is not paying any heed to the complaints of the residents.

The ruling BJD on the other hand has put the blame squarely on the Centre and MCL.

“The Centre should be accountable for this issue. And the MCL should abide by the rules which have been laid out on the agreement with the State government over the coal mining work,” said Talcher MLA, Braja Pradhan.

(Reported By Manil Kumar Maharana, OTV)