Coal couture - a photo essay | Image credit: Baaraan Ijlal

Coal Couture – a photo essay

Coal Couture

Coal Couture
is Baaraan Ijlal’s artistic representation
of the cost children have to pay for our carbon-intensive lifestyles.
The project showcases 5 objects belonging to 5 children
from across the world, their lives and how air pollution
has impacted their health.

Across India and the world, hundreds of thousands of children
grow up breathing toxic air causing irreversible damage to their health.
The latest WHO report states 600,000 children died in 2016 due to air pollution.

Coal, and stolen childhoods

Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh, India

The toy belongs to Rani, a 12 year old girl from Village Gambherpur,
block Myorepur, district Sonbadhra, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Rani was diagnosed with fluorosis.
Her brother, Uttam, has also been suffering from the same symptoms.
Rani has stopped attending school for the last three years
and is embarrassed to even come out in the open.
The family too keeps her indoors and are too embarrassed about the situation of their daughter.

India’s power hub, Singrauli region-
bordering Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh in Central India,
produces more than 22GW of coal-fired electricity everyday.
Burning two and half lakh tonnes of coal daily,
the region twice the size of Delhi,
is home to some of the oldest and the most polluting coal-fired power plants in the country.
It has only one online air quality monitoring station disclosing information in the public domain.

Ennore, Tamil Nadu, India

The object is Navdisha’s sports uniform that is worn to school every Wednesday.
What sets six-year old Navdisha apart from any other six year old
with a love for the sun and sea, chocolates and chatter,
is the village she is from.
She is from Nettukuppam, a fishing hamlet
in the Ennore area of Chennai, India,
where unplanned industrial development over the last few decades
has had devastating effects on the whole ecosystem,
resulting in loss of  ecology and livelihoods of the fishing communities.

Navdisha’s house and her school are so close to
thermal power plants, factories, foundries and refineries in the area
that pollution is as much part of her playtime as her puppy, tri-cycle, ball and games are.

1000 acres of Ennore wetlands were converted into industrial real estate,
although Chennai had barely recovered from the floods of 2015.

Highveld, South Africa

This Maths exercise book belongs to Meshack Skhosana
who dropped out of school at the age of 17 due to ill health.
Meshack belongs to the community of Vosman in the Highveld area of South Africa.
He lost both his parents, his father died of TB when he was 4 years old, and his aunt adopted him.
On an average, Meshack would miss 5 days a month of school as he had difficulty breathing.
He is one of the many children whose growth was disturbed,
health was compromised,
and was deprived of a regular education, family and basic human rights.

The community of Vosman in the Highveld is one of many townships in the area
with cases of TB, Asthma, and other health issues due to air pollution.
Their well-being is affected by polluted air from coal fire powered stations in the vicinity.
But ironically, for most of the people in this area the cost of energy is too high, so it’s out of their income bracket.
The majority of the people in this township are low income earners, and unemployment is high.

Bataan, Philippines

These slippers belong to Mark (name changed for security purpose),
a 10 year old from the community of Brgy, in Lamao, Philippines.
Children here often remove their slippers when the games get tough.
These children live right under the shadow of the smokestack of San Miguel Corporation Limay Coal Plant.
They continue to live their young lives next to this 600 MW project,
making them more vulnerable to diseases
caused by the coal plant’s waste and emissions like an array of respiratory and skin diseases.

Lamao is a barangay in Limay, Bataan, facing the Manila Bay in the Philippines.
The population of Lamao is about 18,000,
which makes it the most populous barangay in the province of Bataan.
There are a lot of heavy industries operating in Limay which include the Petron Bataan Refinery,
the Planters Product Inc., Columbian Carbon Philippines,
Philippine Explosives, National Power Corporation,
Government Arsenal and Asea Brown Boveri.

Lamao, Philippines

These inhalers belong to Jose (name changed for security purpose),
a 10 year old, who lives with his parents in Lamao, Philippines.
Jose is the son of one of the members of the Limay Concerned Citizens Inc (LICCI).
The family lives near the San Miguel Corporation Coal Plant.
Jose could have lived a normal childhood,
playing, making friends and going to school,
but since his community is being terrorized and destroyed by the coal plant,
he spends his time attending meetings, community investigations,
lobbying and other such activities with his parents,
who are fighting for the future of Jose and other children in their community.

The Brgy Lamao Health Center mentioned that there is a consistency of upper respiratory diseases among their constituents, especially the children.

Almost every day, the health center is crowded by mothers carrying their children to have them checked-up and be given medication.

It is heartbreaking to see toddlers and even babies at the site.

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