Nina Subramani writes about her first visit to a thermal power plant and its surrounding areas. This film was made on that journey.

These are pictures and a story from way back in 2002. However, I believe it’s still relevant and goes to show that we need to push far more and far harder to bring about any change.

I was making a film on environment violations in India – travelling through 7 states over 2 months spending each day listening to people whose stories were all the same – sick children, polluted air, dirty water, destroyed land, dire poverty – they also had something else in common. They were all protesting at the risk of their livelihoods and lives against the monstrous injustice they faced everyday – that took away from them their basic right to clean air and water.

In Orissa, I went to a TPP in Angul – it had laid to waste all the land and villages around it.

“All this was fertile land once”, said a villager, while I gazed in shock at the devastation.

Here’s what the top of every leaf on the trees of the village looked like. The soot left on our fingers had to be scrubbed hard later – it didn’t come off easily.

We went to a village near the ash ponds where children played on hills of ash. A man showed me a bottle of water from their fresh water source – it was black – they’d wait for it to settle and decant what was on top.

A child held out a handful of black, sticky, stinking mud from the ground in his palms (this was in the days when I still shot on film and at this point in my story, I’m afraid I had only black and white rolls in my bag and therefore you cannot see the colour, but I shall leave it to your imagination).

I came across a young woman bathing her baby and she turned around as she heard the click of my camera. I helped her dry her little girl who was as yet unnamed. We spoke through gestures and when the guide called me to say that it was time to leave, she handed the baby in my arms and kept pushing back as I tried to return her child. She was clearly distressed – “she’s asking you to keep her baby”, said the guide. “She says that here she may not even live till the age of 10. Keep her as a servant in your house – even that will be a better life”. I felt paralysed. Shaken. Latika’s baby will be 20 next year – I often wonder if she survived and what her name is. 

Latika and her baby

Remember that our children are at risk too, beyond the walls of privilege, the air-conditioned bubbles, we all breathe the same air – let us never stop fighting for a better life for us all. Many countries are recognising the dangers and taking action.

Warrior Moms has taken on the campaign against extending the deadline yet again to thermal power plants. Why?

We need a thousand women to sign this petition. Will you be one of them?

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