This documentary tells the story of an unbelievable occurrence that has been going on for about a century or so. The village of Jharia in India is located right on a coalfield where an underground fire started in 1916— a hundred years ago, and hasn’t stopped burning yet. This causes the village to be perpetually enclosed in a cloud of suffocating black smoke and many flames that have been reported to reach heights of up to 60 feet. Occasionally a house will start burning spontaneously or simply collapse, forcing its inhabitants to run for shelter. Sinkholes have been known to swallow people too. The fire is slowly moving, consuming more of the village as the years go by. The damage to the environment and the health hazards are a growing concern.
Some villagers are leaving but others don’t have anywhere else to go. And so they stay and watch the fire come closer to their homes.
The villagers that remain in Jharia make a living gathering the coal and selling it. One adult basket of coal can sell for about $9 and a child-sized basket sells for a little less. This allows them to feed their families at least twice a day. The coal company allows the villagers to do this freely because they are unable to provide jobs for all of them. The government has tried to relocate the villagers, but those who have moved, can’t seem to find jobs in the new location. Some of them complain that they are no longer able to feed or educate their children because now they have to buy coal and everything else is more expensive.
Some activists believe that the spread of the underground fires is in the government’s best interest because they can legally remove people from land that can be used for coal mining.
Being exposed to the coal dust has caused the villagers to suffer from many different types of lung diseases.
All the villagers are aware of the dangers of living in Jharia and most of them encourage their children to leave and learn a trade so they won’t have to continue to exist in these conditions. Only time will tell what happens to the future generations, because when poverty is this severe, dreams and goals can quickly be swallowed up by nightmares.