SALT PANS OF GUJARAT
Salt Pans of Gujarat
Beautiful, breathtaking and pristine, the Rann of Kutch summons sightseers to its magical and surreal landscape. The snowy-white color of salt in this area is an unblemished subject for tourists, journalists and photographers alike.
A seasonal salt marsh located just 10Kms from Arabian sea, Rann of Kutch produces more than three quarters of the 23Mn Tonne of salt produced by the thriving salt industry of India.This area is under water during the monsoon months and salt farming starts early October, after the water starts to recede. The Salt workers continue to live and work in this area for the next 7 months, making these salt pans their temporary home, living in make shift shacks, all around the pans
The workers build square fields to grow the salt. Wells are dug to pump out briny groundwater into the fields. After the natural evaporation process finishes , the fields are packed with white salt crystals. After the harvest season in the months of December – January, the silvery white fields are full of raw salt. Although most heavy work is now carried on by industrial equipment, some areas in the fields are accessible to humans only. People from ‘Agariya’ tribe have been the salt farmers in this region for many generations. The Agariyas brave the fluctuating temperatures that move from the highs of 45 degrees to the low of 4 degrees, mining pure white salt.
The splendor of the zoomed out industrial and natural landscape is in sharp contrast to the close up of picture of salt workers. Years of working in this inhabitable, severe and unpleasant environment, takes a visible toll. Workers look older than their actual age. Ill equipped, without proper footwear often working bare feet, they develop lesions due to excessive exposure to salt.
According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Health, the farmers suffer from skin lesions, severe eye problems owing to intense reflections off the white surfaces, and tuberculosis. A salt worker of Kutch seldom lives beyond 60 years.