Keonjhar (Odisha), February 28, 2019: Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the New Delhi-based non-profit think tank, has analyzed the situation in mining-affected areas ofKeonjhar district, and proposed an outcome-oriented model plan for the District Mineral Foundation Trust (DMFT). The report highlights the sectors which DMFT needs to focus on in the coming three to five years through planned investments. CSEshared its analysis with the district administration as well as with people from mining-affected areas and the civil society, at a meeting organisedhere today.
The CSE analysis is based on an assessment of official data, as well as a one-month ground survey conducted in mining-affected areas such as Joda, Banspal and Keonjhar blocks.
DMF funds in Keonjhar and its scope
Keonjharis the topmost mining district in terms of DMFT collection in India. The district has more than Rs 2,600 crore in DMFT.
“DMF funds offer a big opportunity to improve lives of mining-affected people particularly in big mining districts like Keonjhar. It can resolve critical problems of poor drinking water, child development, healthcare, education, livelihood opportunities in the district. For this DMFT need to do proper planning by engaging with the mining-affected people,” said Srestha Banerjee, programme manager, CSE, while interacting with representatives of mining-affected communities.
The CSE report provides a blueprint for a need-based DMF plan. It also highlights key sectors that the district can consider as priority. These include nutrition and healthcare, clean drinking water supply, education and livelihood.
The district administration of Keonjhar has started spending on some of these issues. “However, what is now needed is to focus on clear outcomes that the district wants to achieve through these investments in the coming years. This will also help the district to monitor its progress and build confidence of the community,” said Banerjee.
Key findings and recommendations of the CSE report:
Improving child development and nutrition
Keonjhar has a high under-5 mortality rate (U5MR) of 70. About 44 per cent children below 5 years of age are underweight and have stunted growth. The ICDS support is proving to be inadequate. The CSE analysis shows that the anganwadis (AWCs) in mining-affected areas are serving 1.5 to two times their capacity. Also, existing AWCs do not have the necessary infrastructure -- about 65 per cent of the AWCs do not have proper toilet facilities which is crucial for children’s health.
The CSE report recommends that to begin with, it will be important for the district to build on the ICDS support. “In fact, the state government has put much emphasis on convergence with existing programs to improve intervention through DMFT funds,” said Banerjee. Further, the district can also engage with women’sself-help groups to provide nutritious food supply to AWCs. This will also help to improve livelihood opportunities of women and empower them.
“The district is investing also in some crèches through DMF to address early childhood nutrition issues among children from 0-3 years,” informed the DMFT members.
Access to and affordability of proper healthcare
The status of public healthcare is very poor in Keojhar district. Only 4 per cent villages in the district have a PHC within a 5-km radius. In areas like Joda, PHCs are serving three times the number of people which they can serve as per Indian Public health Standards (IPHS). Another big concern is the shortage of health staff, particularly doctors, nurses and specialists. For example, there are 52 doctors in the district and the sub-divisional hospitals, while the actual requirement is for 92. There is also an acute 75 per cent shortage of specialists at CHCs.
The district administration acknowledges the situation and has hired some doctors through DMFT. The district further plans to hire other healthcare personnel.
“The IPHS can be the benchmark for the district to develop targets for plugging the healthcare infrastructure and resource gaps,” says Banerjee. The district must also focus on making healthcare affordable for the people, recommends the CSE report. “One of the mechanisms can be starting a health voucher system. The voucher can be used against certain healthcare services,” says the report. The mechanism has been successful in many developing countries.
Supply of clean drinking water
The district’s mining-affected areas suffer from surface and groundwater pollution. The levels of iron, manganese, chromium, nickel, lead etc have been found to be higher than the limits prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Having clean drinking water is critical for good health. It will also reduce the disease burden.CSE recommends that the district must ensure clean tap water supply in mining-affected areas, schools, AWCs and health facilities.
Ensuring livelihoods around agriculture and forest resources for income security
In Keonjhar, about 36 per cent of the people within the working age-group (15-59 years) do not work. More than half the rural households in Keonjhar are engaged in manual or casual labour, indicating income instability and insecurity. The district’s economic profile shows that about 69 per cent fall below the poverty line. The situation is worse among the tribal population, particularly in the mining-affected areas of Joda, Banspal, Jhampura, Champua and Keonjhar.
“Mining has clearly not benefitted people in the rural and tribal areas over years. The economy based on local resources therefore must be strengthened now through DMFT. Agriculture and forest-based resources can be the key components,” said Banerjee.
The report highlights the potential for generating forest-based livelihoods. Keonjhar has a dominant forest area of about 37.5 per cent, which should be considered as an asset to build upon through DMF and improve livelihoods. In mining-affected areas such as Banspal and Harichandanpur, about 50 per cent of the total area is forests. A number of valuable non-timber forest produce such as mahua, tola, char seeds, tamarind, harida, sal leaves, honey etc are available. However, locals who gather these have little support in finding a market and selling their products at a competitive price.
“With proper investments through DMF, livelihood based on forest products can be improved to a large extent,” said Banerjee. The CSE report recommends that the district must look at providing market linkages to minor forest produces for people to get better value for their products. This can even be done through the existing Tribal Development Cooperative Corporation of Orissa and similar organizations.
Education needs investment to improve literacy and create an educated workforce
Keonjhar has a poor literacy level (66 per cent), way below the national literacy level of 74 per cent. The level is worse among the ST population -- less than 53 per cent. The analysis shows a shortage of schools after elementary level. About 40-50 per cent of the schools in mining-affected areas do not have adequate teachers as per government requirements under SSA and RMSA.
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 report also suggests that DMF can be used to enhance the existing student scholarship schemes to arrest drop-out rates after elementary school.
For more details, please contact ChinmayiShalya, CSE, firstname.lastname@example.org / 9920875676.