From a story of people surviving within the sponge iron industry, the National
LOHA Garam Hai won the Best Environmental Film Award at the 58th National Film Awards in the non-fiction category. It had won the same award from IDPA (Indian Documentary Producers Association), Mumbai, in July 2009. Meghnath and Biju Toppo, two founders of Akhra directed the film jointly. Akhra is an organisation of young adivasi youth of Ranchi in Jharkhand that makes documentary films on the violation of human rights, environmental pollution and other socially relevant issues that affect indigenous tribes.
Loha Garam Hai is about a rising people’s movement against the dangers of manufacturing sponge iron for the immediate environment, in general, and for the people, who work in the factories and the men, women and children who live in the locality, in particular.
The film maps out the story of people surviving within the sponge iron industry. Sponge iron is made out of iron ore used for making steel. India began producing sponge iron just 20 years ago. Today, it is the largest sponge iron manufacturer in the world. India had only three sponge iron factories in 1985. The number rose to 23 in 2001 and multiplied to become 206 in 2005. Today, reportedly, 225 factories are under construction and the number is anticipated to reach 450 very soon though the unofficial figures may be much higher. The sponge iron industry is spread over Orissa, Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal and in small numbers, is found in Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Through graphics, title cards, data and interviews with people of Sundargarh, Rajgangpur in Orissa, Siltara, etc, the film evolves into a scathing comment on the lopsided concept of industrialisation at the cost of human lives, environment, agriculture and livestock. It talks to victims, a few experts and some angry men and women, who are staunchly against this ‘industrial growth.’ The film opens up a world of information and education on a little-known industry that is endangering the environment and is also posing a threat to the lives of livestock and human beings. Few Indians are even aware that there is sponge iron manufacture in the country.
Loha Garam Hai throws up real-life cases. Sitaram Sastry, Mary Keriatta, Bialuti Kully and Sunil Kerketta explain how the paddy has turned black, animals are dying because of the thick black dust in the air and how the cattle population has come down because the cows live off leaves and grass covered with layers of poisonous black dust from the smoke of the factories. Gosai Latera lost his three-month-old baby to cough and chest pain. Kishore Ekka, began coughing blood. Bodo Kishan, a factory worker, suffering from intense stomach cramps had to undergo surgery that revealed a black lump of dust in his stomach. But when he approached a factory superior, he was flatly told, "You are suffering from alcohol, not pollution."
The citation with the
National Award states, "The film is well documented, with a
forthright exposition of the grievous impact of pollution due to
sponge iron industry on the inhabitants dwelling around that area.
With clarity and veracity, the filmmaker is able to express empathy
and concern on the acute prevailing problem over human