Healthcare, nutrition, better education and livelihood top priorities for mining affected Ramgarh, says CSE | Centre for Science and Environment


Healthcare, nutrition, better education and livelihood top priorities for mining affected Ramgarh, says CSE

DMF (District Mineral Foundation) Fund huge opportunity to address some of the fundamental issues faced by people in the region

  • Ramgarh, one of the top coal mining districts in Jharkhand, has more than Rs 270 crores allocated under the DMF scheme

  • Ground and surface water in Ramgarh district is highly polluted due to various industrial activities in the region 

  • High under 5 mortality rate (U5MR) in rural areas is one of the biggest concerns in the region

  • Pollution and low water availability in the area threaten agriculture, leading to loss of livelihood

  • CSE recommends four major areas - clean and sustainable drinking water supply, nutrition and public health education, employment and livelihood – where DMF in Ramgarh should be invested over the next three to five years

Ramgarh, 10 Dec 2017: Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the New Delhi based non-profit think tank, in its latest study has released the status of mining-affected areas in Ramgarh district in Jharkhand, identifying crucial issues that need urgent attention and where the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) fund, allocated to the area, should be spent. 

CSE, in a public meeting held in Ramgarh on 10 Dec, shared the findings and the recommendations with the Deputy Commissioner of Ramgarh, in presence of a wide range of people from mining affected areas in the district. The meeting was attended by representatives from various gram panchayats from mining areas, and civil society organizations in the district. 

DMF funds in Ramgarh and its scope
Jharkhand is currently one of the top three states in terms of DMF accruals. As per latest estimates, more than 2,100 crores have been collected under DMFs in the state. Ramgarh, one of the top coal mining districts of the state, has a major share in these DMF funds. The district has more than Rs 270 crores in DMF so far. Additionally, the district estimates to receive Rs 250 crore every year, in the coming years.

“DMF is a huge opportunity to address some of the fundamental issues that must be provided for people affected by mining. These issues include clean drinking water, affordable and quality public healthcare, quality education, employment and livelihood. The money can be used to work on these through immediate and long-term investments” said Srestha Banerjee, programme manager, CSE, while speaking to panchayati raj members and civil society at the meeting. “The district’s and the state’s focus on water supply is reasonable, but over the next three to five years, some investment on these critical issues is necessary and cannot be ignored” said Banerjee.

Findings and recommendations by CSE on DMF investment targets in Ramgarh’s mining-affected areas:

CSE has analysed various socio-economic, human development and environmental conditions in Ramgarh district to understand deficits where DMF funds can be used. Based on the analysis of these deficits in various sections, CSE recommends four major areas that DMF in Ramgarh should invest on over the next three to five years through proper planning. These are:

  1. Clean and sustainable drinking water supply

  2. Nutrition and public health

  3. Education

  4. Employment and livelihood

1. Clean and sustainable drinking water supply: The ground and surface water in Ramgarh district is highly polluted due to various industrial activities in the region and industrial discharge. Groundwater pollutants in Ramgarh district include heavy metals like iron, lead, cobalt. Levels of fluoride are also high. To make matters worse, 70-80 per cent households in rural mining areas rely on untreated water sources such as hand pumps and uncovered wells. In rural mining areas like Gola, only about 2 per cent households have access to treated tap water. During the discussion, people from the district raised their concern about non-availability of clean drinking water.

The district, following directions of the Jharkhand Government, is allocating a major part of its DMF money for piped water supply to households, said district officials. This is about Rs. 600 crores over next 3 years. While ensuring water supply is important, will relying only on piped water supply help people get clean (treated) and adequate water over long run?

CSE recommended that supplying treated clean water supply to households in mining areas be made a priority. This should also be ensured in schools, anganwadis and healthcare facilities and hospitals. The district can even rope in specialized agencies to provide technological assistance for water treatment. 

“The viability of water supply solely through piped supply and taking water from surface sources such as the Damodar river must be re-examined. The available water from Damodar river is already stretched to its limits due to high water intake by industries” said Banerjee. Locals present at the meeting and during ground interactions point out that Damodar river over the years has turned into a nallah. In such a scenario, how so many households in Ramgarh and its neighboring districts will get a sustained water supply from the river remains a key question. Moreover, it is crucial that the viability of the system be considered before/while planning investments. 

The district must also simultaneously look into sustainable approaches to ensure clean water supply to households, says CSE. The report suggests that a long-term watershed based approach should be considered and the district should start making plans around it. Further mechanisms of rain water harvesting and other sustainable ways should be considered. 

2. Nutrition and public health 

One of the biggest concerns in the district is the high under 5 mortality rate (U5MR) of 35, particularly in rural areas. Another concern is the status of poor nutrition among children below the age of 5 years. In Ramgarh’s rural areas, about 44% of children are stunted, 52% underweight. The intervention through ICDS and general healthcare is grossly insufficient. There is an acute shortage of Anganwadis in the district, with most of the existing AWCs currently serving 2.5 to three times their capacity. Many of them also lack the basic infrastructure such as drinking water facilities and proper toilets.

The sub-optimal public health system of the district further compounds the problem. The district, for example, is acutely short of primary health centres (PHCs). Most PHCs in mining-affected areas are currently serving 2.5 to three times their capacity.  The district and the sub district hospital, the point of more specialized public health access, are only semi-functional. In addition, there is a shortage of doctors, huge shortage of staff nurses, and health technicians. 

Considering these challenges, CSE recommends that the district should use DMF funds to improve nutrition status and healthcare access for people in the region. For nutrition, add-on support should be provided to ICDS to fill-in and improve upon the current shortfalls. 

For healthcare facilities in primary care, PHCs need to be increased by at least 50% to improve first point of contact. The deficits in health staff, particularly doctors and nurses can be filled in by contracting in trained staff, and offering competitive salary.  The district should be given control over setting benchmarks and ensuring compliance of service delivery conditions. Further, demand side financing can improve health access of the poor. People who are BPL or those earning below Rs. 5,000 per month, can be given health vouchers so that they can afford better healthcare. “These are some of the important steps to ensure that the health facilities are well resourced and health issues in the region are addressed effectively,” said Banerjee.

3. Education 

While the literacy in Ramgarh district is 73.2%, comparable to the national average, it is the level of education among people that remains a concern. Though majority of people complete elementary level education in the region, the gross enrolment rate at the secondary level drops by 40%. Also, in the 20-39 years age group, only 18.4% have completed higher secondary education and just above 15% are graduates. 

Poor secondary school infrastructure is an issue in the district. More than 50% habitations in mining-affected Patratu block do not have a secondary school located within the 5 kilometer radius, specified the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA). More importantly, the existing schools do not have enough teachers as reflected in the poor Pupil teacher ratio (PTR). 

To address these educational deficits, CSE recommends improving the number and quality of teachers in schools, providing educational scholarships, expanding on the network of schools, particularly in distressed areas. For instance, in order to reduce the overall drop-out rate at secondary level, the National means cum Merit Scholarship scheme can be strengthened through DMF. For SC/ST children, Post Matric scholarships can be built upon. 

4. Employment and livelihood

Ramgarh district has a high proportion of non-workers. In the working age-group (15-59 years), about 50% people are not working. Additionally, about 29% people do not have full-time employment. Participation of women in work-force is poor. About 70% non-workers in the working age-group are women. Apart from a large number of marginal and non-workers, the income levels of those in the working group are not satisfactory. About 70% rural households in the district earn below Rs. 5,000 a month. 

Though the district has high potential for agriculture, with gross cropped area around 45%, people’s earning from agriculture in rural areas remains low due to pollution and low water availability. The district’s water budget shows high water stress in the region which is likely to get worse. In the next four years, the water demand in Ramgarh is estimated to be five times the current water availability, further adding to the woes.  

“The district must improve on the potential of agriculture based livelihood to secure people’s earnings” said Srestha Banerjee. The long-term watershed approach can also serve this purpose added Banerjee. To improve overall employability, CSE recommends that the district must focus on better education particularly at secondary and post-secondary level, skill development that can get employment, investing in micro enterprises and supporting entrepreneurship, supporting agriculture-based livelihood and supporting better pricing for forest products. 

CSE also recommends that DMFs should consider convergence with various plans/programmes of the Centre and state governments and integrate them into the DMF plans. “Funds like DMF need proper investment planning which requires analyzing issues collectively, understanding people’s needs and looking into scientifically and economically viable best practices. DMF planning must be systematic and bottom-up” said Banerjee. 

The CSE report is based on the assessment of official district data as well as a month-long ground survey. During ground survey, discussions were held with various people in the mining affected area: these included different caste groups, women, PRI members, block development officials, frontline workers among others. 
 

For further queries please get in touch with Chinmayi Shalya on 9920875676 or chinmayi@cseindia.org

 

 

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