Spread across 13 districts in the neighboring Indian states Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, the Bundelkhand region has suffered from drought for over a decade. This has caused an exodus by the majority of its working population who have left to seek a living in other parts of the country.
With agriculture starved by the drought and an absence of alternative industries, mining is one of the few sectors that provides a semblance of regular income to locals. This helps keep a lid on popular opposition to mining activities in the area, even when the industy is also a major cause of environmental degradation and disease in the region.
Silicosis, a form of lung disease caused by the inhalation of crystalline silica dust, is common among people who work in mines or live near stone-crushing plants.
But an insidious and even more harmful impact of mining is on the ground-water table of the region, say environmentalists who are angry that no substantial study has been undertaken to assess the environmental impact of mining in Bundelkhand.
The use of explosives to blast underground mines damages the aquifer—an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock—causing the water to leak away and leading to depletion in the water table, said Dr. Anil K Gupta, associate professor at National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM).
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