Thomas Vanden Driessche
Kalaheera jharia india - june 2010 It is well know that the Inuits have ten or so different names to describe in a subtle way the shades of white. When you arrive in Jharia, you can't refrain of asking yourself if the inhabitants of the biggest mining region of India have a similar gift. Is it possible that these people have developed a particular vocabulary rendering all the subtle shades of black? One thing is sure: this colour is quiet valuable for them! In this region, they used the hindi word "Kalaheera", "the black diamond", when they speak of the coal. More than 100.000 live in Jaharia, a small town next to Dhanbad, the capital of the state of Jharkhand. As a result of bad mining habits since a century huge underground coal fires have spread in the region. It's the equivalent of a volcano that is growing under the city of Jharia. The imminence of a humanitarian crisis is there. The Indian government is well aware of the situation but it seems not ready to allocate enough funds to relocate the communities at risk. But in Jharia, they are not ready to leave without any guaranties. The huge majority of the population is working in the coal business (for the government, private companies or the local mafia). It's an hostile environment but at least they have a job and even for some of them housing facilities offered by their employer. In Jaharia, they are ready to die in a dark pit to give something to eat to their family, but not to be shot like a dog by the mafia. So when murders are on the increase, they explode with anger. Then the streets of Jharia and Dhanbad resonate of slogans and insults that strangely do not accuses the murderers but well the police and the local authorities that have abandoned the city to let it to its fate.
Biography: Thomas Vanden Driessche was born in Belgium in 1979. He is graduated in journalism and humanitarian management. After working 6 years in the humanitarian field, he now puts all his energy in photojournalism.
Strongly attached to the documentary tradition, his photography is often very frontal and decomposes the reality with subtle colors (person, place, movement). Recently, Thomas reported on the industrialization in North India with photographic series on the perfect city of the multinational Tata and the dramatic consequences of a century of intensive coal mining business in the...