In Jharkhand’s Ramgarh and UP’s Sonbhadra, drinking water supply has either started or is about to start
*This is the third section in a multi-part series
Two key mining districts in the heart of India’s mining belt have ensured drinking water for their inhabitants by using district mineral foundation (DMF) funds, a report by non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has found.
The document, DMF: Implementation Status and Emerging Best Practices, was released by CSE on its website on April 10, 2020.
DMF Trusts have been set up across mining districts in India since 2015, since the amendment of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act in that year.
The amendment asked for a non-profit trust to be set up to work for the “interest and benefit of mining-affected areas and people.” With this, for the first time, the rights of communities to benefit from natural resource extraction was recognised.
Since its inception in 2015, close to Rs 36,000 crore has been collected in DMFs across the country, according to the latest Union Ministry of Mines data, and about Rs 6,000-7,000 crore is estimated to come to DMFs annually in the coming years.
Availability of clean drinking water is one of the biggest challenges in mining-affected areas. Due to mining activity, groundwater and surface water bodies are often polluted due to leachate from mines and other discharges.
Mining also causes lowering of the ground water table, resulting in dry spells during summers.
Hence, water security becomes pivotal to ensure the well-being of people in mining areas, a reason why drinking water is topmost among the high priority areas where DMF money should be invested in all states’ DMF Rules.
Most districts, across the top mining states, have invested DMF funds for drinking water projects. Some are short-term measures looking at hand pumps and tube wells, but not considering the filtration of water. Others are long-term, looking at piped water supply.
There are districts that are looking at proper treatment and tap water supply and have sanctioned sizeable proportion of their DMF budgets for it. Most of these projects are however, in the pipeline.
Ramgarh looks at short and long-term water supply measures
Ramgarh in Jharkhand prioritised water supply after a state government mandate in 2016 by earmarking 77 per cent of its Rs 892 crore DMF sanctions for it. Most households in the district used to rely on handpumps and uncovered wells.
The administration first started with smaller, solar-based water works which included a water tank for storage, bore wells (where needed) and filtration equipment as an immediate measure across the district for small hamlets or tolls and middle and high schools around them.
Each mini solar project services 25-30 families. With a budget of Rs 27 crore, 496 such works have been taken up.
“The idea was to start the provision as soon as possible. Solar-based projects and small filtration and storage allows for clean water availability over a longer stretch of time,” Zahid, from Ramgarh project management unit (PMU) which looks after DMF, said.
Ramgarh has sanctioned Rs 649 crore for 26 piped water supply projects as part of more long-term measures. One of them, the Mrar-Sewta pipeline is laid and is functional.
The project, costing Rs 20 crore, services 2,500 households in three panchayats of Mandu (directly mining-affected area) and Ramgarh blocks and eventually aims to service about 1,900 more households.
The water is sourced through the Damodar river, is treated and supplied to households, according to officials. The operations and maintenance cost of Rs 3.2 crore for the next five years is already factored in within the project cost.
For the community, the projects have not only ensured clean water supply, but also saved them the time and effort of walking a distance to fetch water.
“The water from the hand pumps would cause constant stomach ailments among children. That has changed now,” Meena Devi, from Sewta, said.
Piped water for Sonebhadra
Sonebhadra, a major mining district located in eastern Uttar Pradesh, has sanctioned nearly 50 per cent of the total Rs 189 crore DMF investments for two piped water supply projects, for both of which more than half the work is already done.
They target three big panchayats in the worst mining-affected Myorpur region. The district will make use of the cooling water disposed from Anpara thermal power plant as the source, treat it and then supply to the households.
The supply is likely to last at least 30 years. Initially, there will be no used fee. After a few years, the district would decide whether to hand over the project to the panchayats or maintain it through DMF.
“If the supply starts, it will be nothing less than a boon for our community. Our hope is that it will make us healthy,” said Manorama Devi, a resident of Anpara panchayat in Myorpur in Sonbhadra.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.