Down the mines in Maharashtra

By | Category: Travel destinations

With heritage sites too numerous to mention, a range of wildlife that any nation would envy and a cuisine that has become a stale to many people around the world, you might have thought that India couldn’t expand its tourism offering.

It has or, at least, the Indian state of Maharashtra has.  With Mumbai as its largest city, today Maharashtra might be seen as the commercial centre or the industrial powerhouse of India.

It has now developed a thriving tourist industry including a tiger reserve of over 750 square kilometres and the largest single monolithic stone idol of Lord Ganesha.

Now it has two more tourist attractions, ones that you might not immediately associate with India. They have taken two coal mines, one open-cast and one underground and introduced them as  attractions.

Saoner underground coal mine is forty-five miles from Nagpur and covers just under five square kilometres. Unless you are under eighteen, you will be taken underground on the existing transport system on what is generally about a ninety minute tour. As recently as 2014/2015 this pit was producing as much as a third of a million tons of coal a year. Consequently when you visit you aren’t seeing an historic coal mine but a living, breathing one similar to many still in use around the world.

Gondegaon, on the other hand, is an open-cast pit. Closer to Nagpur than Saoner, many people combine a trip here with the nearby Pench tiger reserve and the ancient Jain temple. Much bigger than Saoner, this mine produced over 15 million tons of coal in 2014/15.

So far, industrial tourism sites like Big Pit in South wales, parts of the Ruhr in Germany and the old furnaces in Luxembourg are industrial sites that have closed and been resurrected as tourist attractions. As I said before, in Maharashtra that isn’t the case; you are viewing places where people work and where the production is essential to local industry and homes.

And if that whets your appetite for some industrial tourism you could always pop down and see the Totladoh Dam , a hydro-electric scheme that is also a leisure attraction for the locals.

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