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What are alternative livelihoods for Jharkhand coal workers to support 'Just transition'?

A recent study conducted by Climate Trends has looked into the situation of coal trade workers in Jharkhand, amidst the ongoing

By Ground report
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Coal mining sector absent in methane talks at COP28

A recent study conducted by Climate Trends has looked into the situation of coal trade workers in Jharkhand, amidst the ongoing shift towards cleaner energy sources and India's commitment to NetZero goals.

According to the study, one in three coal workers in Jharkhand is considering farming as an alternative source of employment.

The study, conducted by Climate Trends LLP in association with Ernst & Young LLP, which is the first of its kind, was released at an event in Kolkata called 'Deconstructing the Opportunities in Alternative Livelihoods to Support a Just Transition'.

The event was organized at a time when India is holding the G-20 chairmanship. The report on Alternative Livelihoods aims to explore ways in which India can develop a more sustainable economy, with an equitable and inclusive approach for all stakeholders.

Currently, Jharkhand has 113 coal mines, which is more than a quarter of the total number of coal mines in India. These mines produce more than 115 million tons of coal a year, providing direct employment to about three lakh people in the state.

India is aiming to achieve net zero emissions by 2070, which requires phasing out coal. This will have a significant impact on the livelihoods of coal workers and their communities, particularly in states like Jharkhand.

Coal workers in Jharkhand seek alternative livelihoods

The main objective of the survey was to identify livelihood opportunities that could lead to an equitable energy transition in Jharkhand, as the government shifts towards renewable energy alternatives and phases out coal-fired power plants in line with its policies and objectives.

A survey was conducted in 5 districts of Jharkhand, namely Ranchi, Dhanbad, Ramgarh, Chatra and Bokaro, among 6,000 coal workers, including 4,000 workers in the organized sector such as thermal power plants and mines, and 2,000 workers in the informal sector.

The aim of this study was to gain insight into the potential obstacles and possibilities associated with switching from coal to clean energy sources in Jharkhand, which is the most coal-rich state in India.

The survey focused on capturing perceptions related to a 'just' transition from supply, demand and policy perspectives, with the aim of providing recommendations for inclusive and sustainable growth for workers in the coal sector.

Arindam Banerjee, Project Director of the Communication and Policy Consulting Unit at the Chief Minister's Office, Jharkhand and co-founder of the Policy and Development Consulting Group, spoke at the event and praised the report's focus on the transition from India to renewable energy sources and communities at risk.

He stressed that the report provides valuable information and recommendations that are equitable and sustainable, with the least impact on communities. The report also aims to ensure that community economies continue and that social support for them can be preserved.

The study included a series of Focused Group Discussions (FGDs) with participants to bring their perspectives and opinions to the fore in the context of accelerating the transition from coal to renewable energy.

Major findings

  • Despite 60% of respondents not having an employment contract, the coal sector is the most attractive employer as it offers job security. Also, there is a paucity of other options that pay the same amount.
  • 6 out of 10 workers do not know that coal mines may be closed in future.
  • 94% of the respondents reported that they have never attended any training program. This indicates the absence of plans to increase their efficiency.
  • 85% of respondents expressed interest in participating in capability enhancement or reskilling programs.
  • Only 6% of the respondents have taken any kind of training for alternative employment opportunities other than coal sector and only 24% have attended training related to renewable energy sector

Alternative employment options

Among the coal trade workers surveyed, 32% preferred agriculture and allied sectors as their first alternative employment option, followed by manufacturing at 30% and mining and other minerals at 27%.

Aarti Khosla, Director of Climate Trends said, India's commitment to becoming a net zero country by 2070 makes it crucial to reduce coal usage. The closure of mines should be done scientifically, with consideration for the socio-economic concerns of communities dependent on coal businesses.

The report confirms that the transition from coal to clean energy is impacting local communities, and developing their capacity is essential to help them achieve their goals.

The report provides recommendations that can be assimilated at the policy, sector, and individual level to achieve energy transition targets. As India is currently chairing the G-20, this report's focus on the country's transition to renewable energy sources is especially timely.

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