Nearby mining activities put the population at increased risk of acute respiratory infection, TB and road traffic accident: Study

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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ICMR Report on Health Assessment of communities living near Raigarh

New Delhi. A new study establishes that nearby mining activities put the population at increased risk of diseases such as acute respiratory infection (ARI), tuberculosis, road traffic accident (RTA), etc.

This study was conducted by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Research in Tribal Health (NIRTH) on Health Assessment and Projection of Health of People living in Tamnar Block, Raigarh, Chhattisgarh.

The study was conducted on receiving a directive from the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change, on the directives of National ST Commission to undertake a Hence, the study was carried out to assess the Health & Nutritional status and cause of death among the tribe residing in Tamnar.

This is the first such study undertaken in this area.

The investigation included the collection of data on demographic and socio-economic particulars of the households, anthropometry; clinical examination for general morbidity and nutritional deficiency disorders. About 1713 individuals of different ages from 984 households in 33 villages were surveyed.

The study establishes that nearby mining activities put the tribal population of Raigarh at increased risk of diseases such as acute respiratory infection (ARI), tuberculosis, road traffic accident (RTA), etc.

It was also observed that there is a high prevalence of acute respiratory infection (ARI) (20.9%) This was much higher than the NFHS-4 Chhattisgarh report where it was only 2.2 % in the last 2 weeks preceding the survey. The reason could be due to environmental pollution or poor air quality index. (Page 40 of the report)

Overall, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) accounted for more than half of the deaths followed by infectious and parasitic diseases, injuries and suicide.

About 20% of the deaths were not elsewhere classifiable which include ill-defined and unknown cause of mortality, age-related physical debility, unspecified abdominal pain, diarrhoea and fever.

Among NCDs, cardiovascular diseases were the leading cause of death.

Reacting on the study Rinchin (writer and activist based out of Raigarh, Chhattisgarh) said-

“These findings vindicate our claims of serious health conditions among the residents due to pollution from mines in the region. We welcome ICMR’s report and now urge the state administration and the Central Government to ensure action based on this report and implement corrective measures a time-bound manner to ensure that there is no further damage from mining activities on our health and environment. We also urge the government to ensure that no further expansion or new mines are started in the region until the adverse health impacts reversed”.

Dr Prabir Chatterjee, Community Medicine, Former Executive Director of State Health Resource Center, Chhattisgarh who Was in Chhattisgarh from 2014-2020 where he gave technical support to research on health impacts of pollution in several communities said,

“The study by ICMR National Institute for Tribal Health is well planned and systematically executed. It needs to be taken seriously and shared with the scientific community after peer review. Policymakers need to be told about this too. The findings of health impacts are concerning and the recommendations of the study have to be meaningfully implemented. From the point of future action, certain definite recommendations will be worth considering such as a recommendation on tackling arsenic would help as it is found in high levels in the groundwater in Raigarh. A clear recommendation on monitoring air pollution is certainly very important and should be immediately implemented as there is a planned expansion of mining and industry in this block. There is also an urgent need to improve the social determinants of health in the region as the health of any community cannot improve without improving the social determinants.”

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