Jamshedpur, March 13 : Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi has analysed the situation of mining-affected areas in West Singhbhum district, to identify issues which need priority investments through District Mineral Foundation (DMF). CSE has also given a model planning approach, highlighting some key ways that DMF funds can be spent. The findings and recommendations have been shared with the district administration.
In a public meeting on Tuesday in Chaibasa, the CSE team also interacted with more than 60 panchayati raj institution (PRI) members and representatives of civil society organisations from mining-affected Noamundi, Manoharpur and Jhikpani blocks to share the findings and recommendations.
The CSE report is based on the assessment of official district data as well as a one month ground survey. During the ground survey, discussion were held with various people in mining affected areas – people from different caste groups, women, PRI members, block development officials etc.
Jharkhand currently has more than 2,500 crore under DMFs. West Singhbhum is the top iron ore mining district in the state has one of the largest shares of DMF funds, which is now more than Rs. 370 crore. The district estimates to receive about Rs 165 crore every year in DMF, which can in fact go up with proposed revision in royalty rates.
“DMF is a huge opportunity to improve the life and livelihoods of people who have been affected by mining” said Srestha Banerjee, programme manager, CSE, while speaking to PRI members and civil society at the meetings.
“For West Singhbhum with more than Rs. 370 crore in DMF, it will be very unfortunate if infants and children continue to be malnourished or die because of poor nutrition and healthcare support. The state’s mandate for prioritizing piped water supply and sanitation is important, but cannot be a blanket approach for a district like West Singbhum.” added Banerjee. In rural West Singhbhum IMR is 57, and U5MR is 96, and about 60% children below 5 years age are malnourished.
“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 Banerjee.
The representatives from panchayats also shared their observations and concerns. However, almost after three years of DMF coming into effect in 2015, the knowledge of PRI members and people of mining-affected areas is still poor. They have also not been able to participate in the planning process. This is despite the fact that the DMF law clearly specifies the role of gram sabhas, particularly in Scheduled Areas, for identifying beneficiaries, participating in DMF planning and monitoring.