Gevra open pit coal mine mining chhattisgarh coal belt Choke Point India water food energy nexus Circle of Blue Wilson Center

With 300 billion metric tons still to be mined, India has the world’s fifth-largest coal reserves. Last year, India mined almost 540 million metric tons of coal, ranking it third in production behind China and the United States, and 20 percent of this came from Chhattisgarh. If there is a region where India’s resource-driven economic ambition has the potential to succeed, it is here in Chhattisgarh, an energy- and water-rich eastern state comprised of small sooty cities and a constellation of open pit and underground mines that spread across the countryside like black stars. But in February, workers shut down Southeastern Coal Ltd.’s massive open pit mine in Gevra — which is the largest mine of its kind in Asia and the second-largest in the world — that is responsible for almost 30 million metric tons of production annually. Most abundant in Chhattisgarh and the neighboring eastern states of Jharkhand and Odisha, India’s coal belt cinches the nation round the middle, tapering off in its westward stretch to both the south and north, as if giving way for the major food-producing regions. But make no mistake: coal and food are inextricably linked in India, where millions of groundwater irrigation pumps suck up more than one-third of the nation’s electricity, 65 percent of which comes from coal.

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