Satish Malviya
Satish Malviya
Satish is a freelance journalist based in Madhya Pradesh
Stories by Satish Malviya
 10 Jan, 2024

Operational issues up plastic pollution in rural areas of Madhya Pradesh

Lack of human resources, improper monitoring, poor financial condition of panchayats and lack of awareness contribute to the burgeoning waste problemVidisha, Madhya Pradesh: In Karimabad village of Vidisha district, Nitesh Yadav (25) is preparing his field to cultivate wheat in the rabi season. What worries him is the increasing amount of plastic in the soil, thanks to the unscientific dumping of garbage from Sironj town and surrounding villages near his farm. "It is very difficult to get rid of these small pieces of polythene from the soil. The generation of plastic and polythene waste, including multilayer and single-use, has been increasing with time due to the rise in consumption of fast-moving consumer goods," he remarks.Lack of proper plastic waste management also plays a villain by reducing soil fertility. However, panchayats often end up burning huge mounds of waste, thus upping air pollution. "Chemicals enter our fields when water from the waste heaps flows into our fields and the nearby River Kethan,” Nitish says.According to the Annual Report 2020-21 on Implementation of Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the total waste generation in Madhya Pradesh is approximately 8,022.5 TPD (tonnes per day), of which 7,235.5 TPD waste is collected, 6,472 TPD is treated and 763.5 TPD is landfilled. The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) dashboard says there are 16,515 waste collection and segregation centres in Madhya Pradesh. In all, 34,989 villages have solid waste management and 46,545 villages have liquid waste management facilities.  Segregation centres that separate solid, wet and dry waste are present in every village panchayat, but they do not work properly. On the other hand, material recovery facilities (MRFs) are present at the district panchayat level only. Here, along with segregation, the waste is recycled. The MRFs receive all types of waste, including domestic waste.Karan Yadav (21) of Karimabad tells 101Reporters that an MRF was set up near Karimabad under the Swachh Bharat Mission-Grameen (SMB-G) around three years ago, but it is not yet functional. Established by Sironj Municipality, the MRF is located four km from Sironj town. When contacted by 101Reporters, Sironj Municipality President Manmohan Sahu refused to accept that the MRF was not functional.  MRF unit has remained closed near Karimabad (Photo - Satish Malviya, 101Reporters)However, 101Reporters have learnt during a site visit that the MRF has remained shut. "We have been asking the administration to remove the waste, but we were not heard," says Karimabad sarpanch's representative Ejaz Khan.An MRF is set up on the recommendation of the municipality or district panchayat near urban or industrial areas, where waste is available in sufficient quantities for the unit to process. The population of the area is also a criterion for setting up the unit.Flourmill operator Dhanraj Sahu (36) says a similar facility was built under SBM-G in his native Vardha three years ago, but it has not been put to use to date. “All the waste is collected and dumped in the fields or on the village outskirts," he adds.The problem of management of plastic and polythene waste is evident in the historical pond of Barigarh in Chhatarpur, located around one km away. “This pond was constructed hundreds of years ago to conserve water. Barigarh Municipal Council is not managing the issue of plastic accumulation in it,” says Uttam Ahirwar (44), a resident and local journalist.  Asked about the roadblocks, SBM Deputy Commissioner for Madhya Pradesh Ajit Tiwari tells 101Reporters that the mission has provided for the infrastructural needs of panchayats, yet there were many operational problems at the panchayat level, including lack of human resources, improper monitoring, poor financial condition of panchayats and lack of awareness. "In the 15th Finance Commission, a provision has been made to spend 30% of the budget of the three-tier panchayat system only on cleanliness. Plastic waste management at rural level is in its initial phase under SBM 2.0. It will take time," he says.Garbage-filled plot located in Mandla village (Photo - Satish Malviya, 101Reporters)Tourist village affectedMadla forest village in Panna Tiger Reserve of Panna district has made it to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s list of best tourist villages in the world. Despite its status of an important tourist destination, no special system for waste management is present here.Akash Shivhare, who runs a footwear shop in Madla, tells 101Reporters that plastic heaps have become an eyesore in the area frequented by hundreds of local and foreign tourists. “From village roads to the pond, plastic can be seen everywhere. An NGO collects garbage from houses twice a week, but it is simply not enough,” he says.A year ago, NGO Sahas launched the responsibility of making 30 villages in the Panna Tiger Reserve plastic-free by utilising a grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation and help from Madhya Pradesh Tourism Department. Madla is the largest among these 30 villages. Shailendra Rao, the local coordinator of Sahas, informs 101Reporters that their swachhata mitras collect plastic and dry waste from every house in the village on Monday and Tuesday.“Every time, we collect 40 to 50 kg of plastic waste — both single use plastic and multilayer — bottles and tetra packs. Currently, we do not have an MRF in place; hence we sort and keep all the waste in our storeroom itself. After collecting sufficient quantities, we send it off to a cement factory at Amanganj. Neither panchayat nor people support us, due to which we have not been able to completely free this village from plastic waste," Rao reasons.A dry waste storage center in Mandla (Photo - Satish Malviya, 101Reporters)Asked why an MRF was not functional in Madla despite it being a tourist spot, Ajit Tiwari says an MRF has been proposed 17 km away from Madla. "At present, there is no facility for solid and plastic waste management at the village level. However, by the end of 2024, it will start functioning at the village level also." This proposed MRF will deal with the waste from 30 villages and Panna city. According to a report on solid waste management in rural areas, 0.3 to 0.4 million metric tonnes of solid waste is generated every day in rural areas of India. Citing the data from the CPCB annual report 2019-20, a scoping paper titled Reducing Plastics in Rural Areas from the Centre for Science and Environment says only 1.18% of the total 22, 814 village panchayats in Madhya Pradesh have plastic waste management system and collection and segregation sheds in place. Formed five years ago under the Supreme Court guideline, the 11-member Madhya Pradesh Plastic Waste Management Committee is headed by Imtiaz Ali, whose organisation Sarthak has created a plastic management model in the 222 village panchayats coming under Bhopal district panchayat. The village panchayats have been divided into 22 clusters, where dry and wet waste are collected by safai mitras regularly.  "Segregation and disposal happen at the MRF, and self-help groups make products from plastic and rubber. The remaining plastic items are sent to cement factories or used in road construction. Around 107 TPD collection happens in Bhopal rural on average," says Ali, the director of Sarthak, who has been instrumental in creating the model. In 2020- 2021, 405MT plastic waste was used for 938 km of road construction under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and MP Road Connectivity Project.  Hanumant S Malviya, senior scientist, Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board (MPPCB), tells 101Reporters that MPPCB’s role is only to ban the manufacturing of single-use plastic. “To date, we have sealed 29 single-use plastic manufacturing units. Ban, treatment and fines are the responsibilities of local administration,” he says. According to the PCB, plastic waste does not come under the definition of pollution because it can be recycled. But if someone burns it and pollutes the air, or it enters water bodies and pollutes water and soil, the board can take action.Edited by Rekha Pulinnoli Cover Photo - Animals at the garbage dump site near Karimabad village (Photo - Satish Malviya, 101Reporters)

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Operational issues up plastic pollution in rural areas of Madhya Pradesh

 15 May, 2023

‘Had I been at work, this would not have happened’

With ASHAs striking work since March seeking better wages, newborns and pregnant women die in rural Madhya Pradesh due to lack of timely medical interventionVidisha, Madhya Pradesh: “Had I been at work, I would not have let this happen,” regrets Sharda Kushwaha (29), an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) from Neh Pipariya village in Vidisha district.On April 13, a village woman lost her newborn shortly after delivery as the child was in breech position (bottom down and head up) in the womb. The family could not figure out that something was amiss and couldn't seek timely medical intervention. All this, as Sharda and thousands of ASHAs have been on an indefinite strike in Madhya Pradesh since March 23, demanding that they be given a fair increase in their monthly stipend and assured of permanent employee status.ASHA supervisor Vinita Sharma claims three women and four newborns died in Vidisha district ever since the strike — a reminder of how rural health services rely heavily on the ASHAs in their role as providers of crucial outreach services under the Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health and Nutrition (RMNCHN) strategy of the National Health Mission.  “Ever since the strike began, non-institutional deliveries are on the rise. If we take the last one-month period, seven deliveries have taken place at homes in my block. I feel this number would have otherwise been zero as the pregnant women would have been shifted to a hospital or health centre,” says Preeti Raghuvanshi, an ASHA supervisor from Tyonda block of Vidisha.“Pregnant women go to the government hospital only because of the ASHAs. In fact, no one wants to go there without an ASHA’s escort. They think there is a lack of resources in government hospitals, and that people will not provide the required information or behave well. So women do not want to go to the hospital alone,” Lakshmi Korav, the president of Madhya Pradesh ASHA/ASHA Sahyogini Shramik Sangh, tells 101Reporters.Admitting that non-institutional deliveries have gone up ever since the strike, Korav says, “Even check-ups and monitoring of pregnant women have stopped. The ASHAs used to get them medicines from health centres or check their blood pressure during door-to-door surveys. After delivery, they are encouraged to breastfeed. The ASHAs take care of the newborn in the first 28 days and constantly monitor their weight. All of this has stopped.”Nargis Bi of Sirnota is pregnant, but she will have to go alone to the primary health centre (PHC) for check-up. "The ASHA always accompanied me for check-ups. Everything went well when she was around. Sometimes, she would take me to the district hospital for an ultrasound. She can better articulate my problems to the doctor, which makes treatment easier.” For now, the ASHAs have been instructed to verbally keep in touch with the women and explain what they should necessarily do. “These are the people of our community; we have no enmity towards them. We care about the people we look after. We have told them that right now we are on strike and cannot come to take care of your child. It bothers us that we cannot help them while we are fighting for our rights,” says Korav.The striking workers are demanding that the state honours the agreement reached during talks with a government delegation in 2021 which promised to raise wages from Rs 2,000 to 10,000 for ASHA workers and from Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 for ASHA Sahyoginis. They seek the immediate implementation of this agreement and payment of arrears from that date (Photos sourced by Satish Malviya, 101Reporters)Why strike work?There are three working cadres — ASHA, Urban Social Health Activist (USHA), and ASHA Sahyogini. Currently, the ASHAs and USHAs receive a monthly payment of Rs 2,000, while ASHA Sahyoginis, who perform supervisory duties, get Rs 10,000. They want the honorarium to be raised to a minimum of Rs 18,000 and Rs 26,000, respectively. “After working tirelessly for hours together, we are paid less than a daily wage worker. My family has seven members. Tell me how I will run the household with this meagre amount,” asks Sharda. Korav emphasises that they are only demanding a living wage. “We need at least Rs 18,000 per month, which is the minimum wage a trained worker in Madhya Pradesh should get as per the government mandate.”  However, the current focused demand relates to an agreement reached during talks with a government delegation headed by Chhavi Bhardwaj, the then NHM Mission Director, in 2021. “On June 24, 2021, when we were protesting in Bhopal, the government team engaged in talks with us, and it was agreed upon that the ASHAs would be given Rs 10,000 per month and Sahyoginis Rs 15,000. We seek the immediate implementation of this agreement and payment of arrears from that date," Korav explains.NHM State Director Priyanka Das did not respond to repeated attempts to contact her.Justifying the demand for a better honorarium, Sharda says they are on call 24x7. “We leave everything to tend to a woman in labour in the middle of the night, yet join routine work early morning the very next day.”  The ASHAs maintain a register of pregnant women, newborns and other target beneficiaries. Every day, they go through a checklist and mark the areas that need home visits — like pregnant women in the last trimester or breastfeeding mothers — and set out on foot for door-to-door visits as soon as they are done with the work at the PHC. These visits facilitate early detection of diseases, maternal and child healthcare, nutrition education and immunisation campaigns.The ASHAs are like an extended family, intimately involved in the lives of the villagers they serve. They not only provide essential healthcare but also act as sources of support. “Being part of the local culture and customs makes it easier to tackle sensitive health topics. We counsel the residents on numerous issues. We talk about family planning and encourage sterilisation… We know which house has what issue, and how it should be addressed,” says Usha Sharma, an ASHA from Sirnota.Pooja Kushwaha from Ahmedpur is forever thankful to the ASHA who supported her during pregnancy. “I was underweight, had low BP and suffered from bouts of nervousness… Arti Lodhi, our ASHA, checked upon me regularly, and sometimes accompanied me to the PHC for check-up. She gave me iron tablets. After her counselling session, I was no longer anxious about the delivery,” says Kushwaha, who also got maternity assistance under the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) with her help.The JSY is a centrally sponsored scheme that integrates cash assistance with delivery and post-delivery care. The scheme has recognised ASHAs as an effective link between the government and pregnant women. It aims at promoting institutional deliveries and reducing maternal and neonatal mortality by providing cash incentives to those who give birth in healthcare institutions.“She (ASHA) has been with us from the beginning of pregnancy. She advised me about both maternal and child health. After the baby’s arrival, she only took care of the vaccination, weight, nutrition and everything else,” attests Sunaina Bairagi, a new mother from Ahmedpur.The ASHAs hold weekly sessions with the women and children at anganwadis to ensure holistic development and well-being of children, pregnant women, and lactating mothers. “We are trained in providing assistance during childbirth in both home and institutional settings. No one knows exactly when a delivery will happen, so we are always prepared when a woman is expecting,” says Usha.They also maintain a record of the children’s growth and development. “Ever since the strike, the data on nourishment levels of children have not been shared with the government. No one is tracking nutritional intake. These children are walking a fine line between undernourishment and malnourishment,” cautions Korav.The ASHAs were to start the registration work for the newly-launched Madhya Pradesh Mukhyamantri Ladli Behna Scheme, but they have not been part of it due to the strike. The referral system has been affected as the ASHAs play a critical role in facilitating timely and appropriate referrals for emergency obstetric care. Around March-April, they conduct a malaria survey to check the presence of mosquito larvae on household premises. Vaccination drive against Japanese Encephalitis is also carried out during this period. None of these activities have been taken up this time. No doubt, the ASHA strike has crippled rural health services in Madhya Pradesh. The only thing left to know is how long the government will take to intervene.Edited by Tanya ShrivastavaCover photo - The ASHA strike has crippled rural health services in Madhya Pradesh (Photo sourced by Satish Malviya, 101Reporters)

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‘Had I been at work, this would not have happened’

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