NFTV: Odisha : Jharsuguda : Rep- Amjad Badshah : Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the New Delhi based non-profit think tank has analyzed the situation of mining-affected areas in Jharsuguda district, to identify issues where District Mineral Foundation (DMF) funds can be spent and planned for.
The findings and recommendations were shared with the District Magistrate and Collector of Jharsuguda and PMU members in the district.
In a public meeting on January 20, which was attended by about 70 people, the findings were shared also with various elected representative and PRI members from mining-affected areas, civil society organizations and social workers.
The CSE report is based on the assessment of official district data as well as a one month ground survey. During ground survey in Lakhanpur, Belpahar and Jharsuguda mining-affected areas, discussion were held with various people such as people from different caste groups, women, PRI members, block development officials etc.
DMF funds in Jharsuguda and its scope
Jharsuguda a key mining district, has currently more than Rs 435 crores in DMF. Additionally, the district estimates to receive Rs 150 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. In Jharsuguda there is huge opportunity to make innovative investments to improve child health, healthcare infrastructure and resources, education and sustainable livelihood opportunities. The money can be used to work on these through immediate and long term investments” said Srestha Banerjee, programme manager, CSE, while speaking at the meeting.
Members present at the public meeting also raised several important points on DMF. A key demand from people of mining-affected areas was that there should be more people’s representation in DMF decision making bodies. Issues were also raised about targeted investments in mining-affected areas. People particularly from Lakhanpur block, the biggest mining affected area, felt that the district needs to put more focus on the area. They also highlighted that the district must re-assess mining-affected villages, as several areas are left out. Particular concern was raised about mining-affected people, who have been displaced from the 10 km radius of the mining-affected area, and are left out as beneficiaries.
Key findings of CSE report and recommendations
Based on the analysis of the deficits in various sections, CSE recommends four major areas that DMF in Jharsuguda should invest on over the next three years. These are:
Clean/treated and adequate drinking water supply.
Nutrition and public health
Post elementary education
Employment and sustainable livelihood
Poor treated water access in mining-affected areas- While pollution in high in mining areas, but only about 3% of households in rural Lakhanpur have access to treated tap water. Most households rely heavily on often contaminated groundwater sources like hand pumps, uncovered wells etc. About 85% – 90% schools in Lakhanpur and Jharsuguda blocks lack it.
Treated clean water supply to households in mining areas must be provided. This should also be ensured not only for households, but also at schools, anganwadis and healthcare facilities and hospitals. Almost all people in mining areas demand clean drinking water.
Nutrition and child development still a major concern- In rural areas under 5 mortality rate is 53, far over the Sustainable development goal (SDG) target of reducing under 5 mortality to 25 by 2030. Besides, more than 35% children below 5 years age in these areas suffer from symptoms of malnutrition, such as stunted growth and underweight or have stunted growth. The ICDS implementation needs improvement to improve this. “DMF funds can be used to build up on it” said Srestha Banerjee. There is a need to improve on factors such as increasing nutrition support, health education among women, monitoring of health improvements.
Severe health problems particularly respiratory and water-borne diseases- Govt. data shows, 282 per 1 lakh people have TB in rural areas. More than 80% of children in rural areas below 5 yeas suffer from symptoms of diarrhoea and dehydration. The public healthcare resources in the district have a deficit of doctors, technicians, and other medical staff. Categorically there is a shortfall of 50 per cent doctors and health technicians. Beside in all mining-affected areas, both PHCs and CHCs lack the required infrastructure and resources.
The district administration admits the problem. As informed, DMF funds are being used to hire doctors at these facilities. Also, the district is considering having specialists on a contractual basis, as discussed based on CSE findings.
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. In the 20-39 age group, while about 85% people are literate but only 12 per cent people have completed higher secondary education, which is important for securing employment. Many secondary schools also do not have adequate teachers. For example, in Jharsuguda block, about 35% of secondary schools do not have teachers as necessary under Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA).
High proportion of non-workers and poor earnings: There is a high proportion of non-workers in the working age-group (15-59 years). About 46 per cent people in this age group are not working. “A major problem in the district is of low earning of majority of people. About 86% of rural households have highest earning heads getting below Rs. 5,000 per month, which is extremely poor in today’s context” said Srestha Banerjee.
Sustainable livelihood investments a key- In Jharsuguda, the rural areas have huge potential of agriculture. But due to pollution and low water levels, agriculture has been severely affected as captured during CSE survey in mining-affected rural areas. The district needs to invest on this through DMFs. Given the scope of undertaking long term investments, the district must invest in long term watershed based approaches to augment water availability recommends CSE study. This will not only improve agriculture based livelihood, but will also help in assuring water supply. The district must also invest in bringing back the large proportion of wasteland it has to productive use.