|Photo credit: Swapan Haldar|
How many of us are motivated by nature’s innocence and yearn to return to those days of simplicity. But when we retrace those steps, worlds have changed. Swapan Haldar wonders.
When I was a post-graduate student at Calcutta University in the 1960’s, I did my thesis on chromite deposits of Orissa, India. Mining for chromite had just started in the country. The chromite belt was located in a valley between the Mahagiri and Daitari hill ranges. I was put up in a small hutment inside the boundary of the mine campus. The area was a dense forest populated by wild animals and a few tribal villages. I used to do geological studies in the forest from early morning to late noon. After sunset no one was allowed to step outside the mine’s fenced area. No one would open the hutment door at night. Elephants used to come to the villages for food and would destroy the banana plants. We used to witness bear families fading away into the forest. Once I experienced the smell of a tiger and left-over food in a small cave. Lateritic –nickel was discovered in the area by the Geological Survey of India while I was there. My three months of field work in the midst of a dense forest and being in nature fascinated me forever. Back at the University, my thesis was highly acclaimed. Thereafter, I joined metal mining corporate companies (copper-zinc-lead). But I could never forget that short stay in a remote mine campus with inadequate facilities and very little modern comforts. I promised myself that I would return to the platinum-nickel-chromite industry at an opportune phase to share my knowledge with students and fellow professionals.
This first experience made a permanent and passionate impact on me, to love nature, to learn the process of the Universe and to understand how the mystic mother Earth hosts minerals and metals from core to crust for the benefit of birds, animals and human beings. The urge made Swapna, my wife and me to explore different parts of the World. We have seen the majestic snow-capped Himalaya Mountains from different places, seasons, angles and altitudes. We had been to glacier capped summit of Jungfrau, one of the main peaks of the Bernese Alps. The view of the granite monolith (“Half Dome”), Yosemite National Park, East of California and a part of Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is a sight to behold to geologists and other scientists. The scenic beauty of Grand Canyon, Arizona State, with its changing colors from early morning to late evening explains the sedimentary process of formation.
When I first visited Sukinda Chromite belt in 1964, it was a sleeping hamlet and gifted by nature’s love with dense forests, mineral wealth and peaceful tribal people. There were three small mine entities separated by kilometers and supported by less than 100 employees. I visited recently to update my knowledge about the present chromium-nickel resources in the World. I was confirmed that platinum does exist. But what I saw saddened me. There are more than 25 surface and underground working mines separated by common boundaries. The forests have vanished. The majestic Mahagiri range reduces greatly by bulldozing. Series of newly born hills appear parallel to Mahagiri range due to mine waste dumping. Nonmetal roads take care of more than one thousand trucks daily for transporting ore to distant ferrochrome factories. The sky is gloomy throughout the day due to the mine dust. Social evils, crime, alcoholism and drug addiction, and other such abuses have increased. This is the other side of the coin. We have to address and balance between good and evil through proper self protective education, counseling and training. Making stringent rules is not the solution- it has to be implemented in the right spirit. Otherwise what will we leave for our future generations?