Every 3rd coal worker in Jharkhand prefers agriculture: Study

New Delhi (IANS) One in every three coal workers in Jharkhand prefer agriculture as an alternative livelihood option once India moves away from coal and towards clean energy sources to meet its net-zero goals, according to a new study.

The study on alternative livelihoods aimed to provide insights into how India could transition to a more sustainable economy in a way that is equitable and inclusive for all stakeholders.

Jharkhand has 113 operational mines that account for over one-fourth (26 per cent) of all coal mines in India, and generate more than 115 MT of coal every year.

The coal mining industry in Jharkhand supports nearly 3,00,000 direct coal mining jobs, 38 per cent of all such jobs in India. Ultimately, India must prioritise the expansion of renewable energy sources to meet its growing energy needs.

The study, ‘Livelihood opportunities for a Just Transition in Jharkhand’, the first-of-its-kind by Climate Trends, in partnership with Ernst & Young LLP, was released in the backdrop of India’s G20 presidency.

The survey was primarily aimed at exploring the kind and type of livelihood opportunities that will enable a just energy transition in Jharkhand in a future where coal plants are phased down and renewables ramped up in line with the government policies and targets.

The study was conducted across five districts — Ranchi, Dhanbad, Ramgarh, Chatra and Bokaro — among 6,000 coal workers.

Among those, 4,000 workers were from the organised sector (thermal power plants and mines), and 2,000 unorganised workers, along with 26 policy and sectoral experts. It was aimed at understanding the challenges and opportunities of transitioning away from coal and to clean energy sources in a coal-rich state such as Jharkhand.

At least 20 focussed group discussions (FGDs) were conducted among the respondents, which were aimed to highlight the workers’ voice, as the state transitions away from coal.

Arindam Banerjee, Project Director, Policy and Communications Advisory Unit, Chief Minister’s Office in Jharkhand, said, “This report is a significant contribution to the ongoing discussion on India’s transition to clean energy sources and its impact on vulnerable communities.”

Aarti Khosla, Director, Climate Trends, told IANS that with India’s commitment to reach net-zero by 2070, abatement of coal does become an important consideration.

Equally important is to undertake scientific mine closure, ensure additional power needs are met by renewables, and take socio-economic parameters of communities in account as and when mines are shut.

“Focus is on India this year, and as the hosts of G20 there is an opening to seize the momentum and demonstrate that India’s energy future is dominated by clean energy. This report establishes the need for skill development to help local communities tide over the transition to clean energy systems.

“It offers recommendations to confidently embrace the policy level, sectoral level, and individual level changes the energy transition goals will bring,” she added.

India has set a target for achieving net-zero by 2070 and is focused on a ‘coal phase-down’ approach.

However, a coal phase-down threatens the livelihoods of millions of workers and communities who depend on the coal sector for their sustenance and livelihoods across multiple states in the country.

The impact of such a phase-down will be higher for states such as Jharkhand with a large number of mines and high levels of coal production.

“The findings of the report are crucial in shaping policy decisions on a just transition plan for Jharkhand and other coal-rich states in India,” said Amit Kumar, Associate Partner, Ernst & Young LLP.

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