Needs to also focus on livelihood security and healthcare
Chatra (Jharkhand), December 7, 2018: Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the New Delhi-based non-profit think tank, has analysed the situation in mining-affected areas in Chatra district, to identify issues which need priority investments through District Mineral Foundation (DMF). CSE released its analysis – which has already been shared with the district administration – at a public meeting in Tandwa block today.
The CSE analysis is based on an assessment of official data, as well as a one-month ground survey conducted in the mining-affected areas of Tandwa and Simaria blocks.
DMF funds in Chatra and its scope
Jharkhand, currently, has collected more than Rs3,200crore under DMF. Chatra is one of the major mining districts in the state, with five big coal mine projects located in Tandwa block. The district’s current DMF collection ismore than Rs 425 crore(in the last three years). Additionally, the district estimates that it will receive about Rs 150 crore per year from DMF Trusts.
“DMF funds offer a big opportunity to improve lives of mining-affected people by ensuring basic amenities such as clean drinking water, proper healthcare and education etc. Most importantly, the fund is crucial for improving people’s livelihoods and income security,” said Srestha Banerjee, programme manager, CSE, while interacting with PRI members and mining-affected communities in today’s meeting.
“Chatra is rich in forests and has much agriculture potential. However, people's earnings from these are very low. Targeted investments through DMF can maximise the potential of livelihoods based on forest produce and agriculture and improve people’s earnings by maximising on their knowledge and skills,” she added.
Banerjee said that the district has already taken a positive step by investing Rs 250 crore for piped-water supply in mining areas. However, livelihood, nutrition and access to healthcare are pressing issues where DMF investments are urgently required.
"The district administration does recognise this and is considering proper planned investments over the next three years on the major issues," said Banerjee. Jitendra Singh, district collector of Chatra, has started taking some measures. For example, in Tandwa and Simaria blocks 40anganwadis have been upgraded and there are more in the pipeline. Also, to improve basic healthcare access, the district is investing in Asha Kit, a project under the National Health Mission, to provide basic medicines and medical supplies in all villages of Chatra -- DMF money is being used here as a top-up fund to improve access.
Key findings of CSE report and recommendations
The ICDS support is inadequate. "The anganwadis in mining-affected areas like Tandwa and Simariaare serving three times their capacity," said Rajeev Ranjan, Jharkhand state coordinator of CSE. The existing AWCs also lack basic facilities such as clean drinking water and toilet.
The CSE report recommends building on the existing ICDS support to ensure adequate AWCs in mining-affected areas, with basic amenities like clean drinking water supply and toilets. The district must also ensure regular and nutritious food supply which children and mothers would prefer consuming. "In the long term, the district can also look at direct benefit transfers to mothers from BPL/low income households," said Ranjan.
It is important that the district has started taking actions to upgrade anganwadis and provide such basic amenities by using DMF funds.
In other blocks as well, the PHCs are grossly inadequate and serving four to five times their capacity. The health sub-centressuffer the same fate.
Another big concern is the paucity of health staff, particularly doctors, nurses and specialists. For example, the district hospital has only eight doctors – just one-fourth of the requirement. There is also a 37 per cent shortage of specialists such as surgeons, obstetricians/gynaecologists etc.
The CSE report recommends that the number of PHCs should be increased to at least meet the Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS). The district can also upgrade existing health sub-centres to comprehensive health centres.Doctors and trained healthcare staff need to be recruited by offering competitive salaries to fill the deficit. “To start with, the district can contract trained doctors, nurses and technicians. A weekly visit by doctors in the directly-affected panchayats can be arranged to bridge the huge staff deficit," said Banerjee.
"Mining has clearly not contributed to the economic well-being of the locals," said Banerjee. Rather, it has caused pollution and water stress in the region, which has lowered agricultural productivity in turn.
The district’s irrigation situation is also very poor. The Ministry of Rural Development has identified Chatra as one of the worst irrigated districts in India. Besides, most of the farmers are marginal with less than 1 hectare of land holding.
Given the scope of DMF funds, CSE recommends a watershed management approach to ensure long-term improvement in water availability and soil and water conditions. "The district already has anintergrated watershed management plan which can be implemented using DMF funds,” said Banerjee. The district should also explore the potential of organic farming.
The district also needs to build on the potential of its forest resources for improving livelihoods. About 60 per cent of Chatra’s land area is forest. Even mining blocks like Tandwa have 44 per cent of their area under forests. A number of valuable forest produce such as hara, beharra, mahua, kusum, khajuretc are harvested in the district.
However, local communities who gather these products and sell them at local markets have very little knowledge of the real market value of these products. Also, they have little support in finding a market and selling their products at a competitive price. The government’s MSP for MFP scheme (Minimum Support Price for Minor Forest Produce scheme) is not implemented in the district, shows the survey.
“With proper investments through DMF, livelihood based on agriculture and forest products can be improved to a large extent,” said Ranjan. The CSE report recommends that the district must look at providing market linkages to MFPs for people to get better value for their products. Besides, women SHGs and primary cooperative societies (PCS) can be given the necessary skills training and monetary support to help them gather, store and process products in a collective way and negotiate for better prices.
The CSE report particularly emphasises on improvement of secondary education in the coming years - what is needed is schools with secondary education facility and qualified teachers. The district can also build on the mid-day meal scheme and extend it till standard 10th. These initiatives will help arrest the drop-out rate and address poor nutrition levels, particularly among women.
For more details, please contact Sukanya Nair of The CSE Media Resource Centre, firstname.lastname@example.org / 91-1140616000, 29955124.