Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the New Delhi based non-profit think tank has analyzed the situation of mining-affected areas in Dhanbad district, to identify issues where District Mineral Foundation (DMF) funds can be spent and planned for. CSE has shared the findings and the recommendations with the District DMF committee (chaired by the District Commissioner). In a public meeting the findings were also shared and discussed with representatives of gram panchayats and ward members from mining areas, and civil society organizations.
The draft report is based on the assessment of official district data as well as a one month ground survey that CSE did. During ground survey discussion were held with various people in mining affected areas such as people from different caste groups, women, PRI members, block development officials, people who have been shifted to Balgharia.
DMF funds in Dhanbad and its scope
Dhanbad, Jharkahnd’s top coal mining districts has about Rs. 600 crore in the DMF Trust fund currently. Above that about Rs. 250 crore is estimated to come to DMF annually. “The money coming to DMF is a huge opportunity to address some of the fundamental issues that must be provided for people affected by mining and living in those areas. The money is a “flexi-fund” and also can be used to work on immediate needs of these areas and also long term investments” said Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General of CSE while speaking to panchayati members at the meeting. “People of the affected areas should also be consulted as the law specifies, and for a part of DMF funds can be used to train them and improve their capacity”, he added.
Findings of CSE on main problems of mining-affected areas :
Heavy environmental pollution: Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) identifies Dhanbad as a critically polluted area. Air pollution is severe with PM10 levels due to coal dust are nearly four times the permissible limit of 60ug/m3. The main river of the district Damodar has been identified as severely polluted. About 40% of the land is degraded and barren due to soil pollution.
Severe health problems particularly respiratory and water-borne diseases, and no proper health facilities or doctors: Chronic health conditions like TB (288 per 1 lakh population) are 1.5 times higher than the country average. Asthma, diabetes, hypertension etc. also have high prevalence. The health infrastructure just worsens the problem. Primary health facilities are only half of what is required under Indian Public Health Standard (IPHS) in all blocks and Jharia area. There is no sub-district hospital, and the government district hospital barely working. There is an acute 60% shortage of doctors, and about 70% of staff nurses.
Nutrition is a concern: The under-5 mortality rate (U5MR) in rural Dhanbad is 52. More than 50% children below the age of 5 years are underweight. The ICDS infrastructure and resources are inadequate to remedy this as most Anganwadi centes (AWCs) are serving close to 2 times their capacity. More than 80% of these AWCs do not have toilets and drinking water facilities.
Poor level of education in secondary and higher secondary: Though people complete education till 8th standard (elementary), but after that the education level is very poor. Only 15% people in the 20-39 age-group finishing higher education and about 17% finishing graduation. The enrolment in secondary schools is also low, 30% less than elementary schools. Plus there is lack of secondary and high schools, adequate teachers and basic facilities as necessary under Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA).
Low number of main workers and poor work participation among women: Only 31% population is working. The main workers are only 20% of the total population; 35% people are marginal workers. Women’s participation in work force is negligible. In Jharia, the most mining intensive and affected areas, there is lack of livelihood and low supporting wage structure for displaced people. The current one-time wage that is given is just one-fourth of the state’s minimum wage for MGNREGA.
Lack of clean and adequate water: In rural areas, 80-90% rural households do not have access to treated tap water and they rely heavily on often contaminated groundwater sources. Almost half the households in urban areas also face this problem.
Recommendations on DMF investments in Dhanbad by CSE
Based on analysis of the gaps on various sectors, CSE recommends 5 key issues that the DMFs should invest on over the next 5 years. “These are- public health, child-development and nutrition, clean water, education and livelihood/employment” said Chandra Bhushan. Many of these issues are closely related with each other. For example, to improve people’s health conditions in the district there must make simultaneous investment in drinking water; for improvement in livelihood there must also be investments in education to ensure people complete school and college education among other things. CSE said that the district’s focus of investment in drinking water is important. “Drinking water supply must consider proper treatment before supplying given the pollution in groundwater in the region” said Bhushan.
On other issues CSE gave some specific directions on how DMF money can be spent. For example, public health should focus on improving primary healthcare as well as secondary healthcare. The deficits in number of primary health facilities should be filled as per IPHS standards. The number of doctors and nurses should be increased by getting doctors if required for now on contractual basis. “Providing health vouchers to poor people so that they can use private health facilities can be done for ensuring decent healthcare for the poor” said Bhushan. Simultaneously for nutrition issues the ICDS implementation must be improved, and DMF funds should be used as add-on.
On education front, improving the enrollment at secondary level, and completing education at secondary and higher secondary levels need to be supported. These include improving the number and quality of teachers in schools, providing tridents scholarships, expanding on the network of schools particularly in distressed areas are important. Local women can be trained as school teachers to fill the gap in teachers. “Good education is also key for people’s employability” said the CSE report. Also there is need of relevant skill training particularly in the 18-39 years age group after assessing their needs and the skill level. Given the poor participation of women in the workforce, a specific focus should be on them.
The employment and livelihood opportunities of people who have been relocated from Jharia to Baghmara area, or are planned to be resettled must be looked into closely. “Over nearly the last 10 years the implementation of Jharia Master Plan” has been abysmal. The few people relocated neither has been given a decent transfer wage, nor any livelihood opportunities has been created there, shows CSE report. “There is a need for microenterprises and entrepreneurship” in the mining-affected areas through incomesupport, low interest loans” said Bhushan.
CSE also recommended that the Tundi and Purbi Tundi , which are not yet under the affected area listing, should be considered as “indirectly affected area” by DMFs. People from mining areas have been pushed away in these areas. These constitute the DMF beneficiaries, said Bhushan.
Finally CSE took a strong position on environmental pollution of the area which is from negligent operation of the coal mining companies. “The companies must bear the responsibility for mitigating pollution” said Bhushan. They must also use their CSR funds towards addressing environment related problems, so that pollution burdens on people do not keep mounting.
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