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Water access and sanitation shape birth outcomes and earning potential

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Kolkata, Nov 12 (IANS/Mongbay) Spending more time per day fetching water increased Indian women’s risk of delivering a low birth-weight baby, a study has said.

The study, by the University of Iowa College of Public Health and published online in October, highlights the relationship between adverse birth outcomes and sanitation access, domestic water-fetching, crime and gender-based harassment.

Among women without a household water source, two hours was the median time they trekked to collect water, the study reported. It suggests physical and psychosocial stress are possible mechanisms by which water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) access affects pre-term births (PTB) and low birth-weight (LBW) among Indian women.

“What we think is most likely is that carrying heavy loads of water requires a lot of calories, and that many women aren’t consuming enough healthy food during pregnancy to sustain the micronutrient needs to grow a healthy baby,” said study co-author Kelly Baker, an assistant professor of occupational and environmental health.

Pregnant women need to consume 300 extra calories per day of nutritious food to give the foetus adequate nutrition. “Recent studies have linked maternal malnutrition to low infant birth weight, and our study is suggesting a mechanism for why pregnant women may be malnourished,” Baker told Mongabay-India.

United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal target 6.1 calls for universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water. In 2010, the UN General Assembly explicitly recognised the human right to water and sanitation.

The State of the World’s Water Report 2018 reveals that in India, nearly 163.1 million people lack access to clean water close to home, despite the country being among world’s most-improved nations for reaching the most people with clean water.

India is reeling under problems of falling groundwater levels, drought, demand from agriculture and industry, pollution and poor water resource management – challenges that will intensify as climate change contributes to more extreme weather shocks, the report said.

At the same time, India also faces a daunting task to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of bringing neonatal mortality from the current level of 25 to 12 per 1,000 live births and under five mortality rate from 43 to 25 per 1,000 live births by 2030.

The present study contributes to the limited evidence related to environmental causes of PTB and LBW by demonstrating that lack of household WASH infrastructure and social factors, like crime and harassment of women and girls, are risk factors for adverse birth outcomes in women in low- and middle-income countries, the researchers write.

The researchers culled data from the India Human Development Survey. The survey asked women about their drinking water source, walking time to that source, time spent fetching water, sanitation (toilet) access, harassment of women and girls and local crime among other queries.

They examined the effect of pre-birth WASH and social conditions on self-reported PTB status and LBW status for 7,926 women who gave birth between 2004 to 2005 and 2011 to 2012. Of these women, 14.9 percent experienced premature birth and 15.5 percent delivered a low birth weight baby.

Baker goes on to say that one of the most important limitations in their study was reliance upon self-reported behaviours, experiences, and birth outcomes, which may have been prone to response bias. Also, the amount of information collected about WASH and social capital was limited.

Gendered roles of water usage

In November, India restructured its National Rural Drinking Water Programme with a goal to reach 90 percent of rural households with piped water by 2022. As per government data, only 56.3 percent of the rural population has piped water supply.

In India, a ground-water dependent nation, drinking water security of nearly a billion Indians is at potential risk on account of the county’s groundwater crisis. At least 85 percent of the rural population relies on groundwater for their daily drinking water needs and nearly 50 percent of the urban share of water supply is groundwater-based.

Western Sydney University’s Basant Maheshwari who works on sustainable groundwater use and management observed women also make substantial use of groundwater for productive purposes. In most developing countries, like India, the trend is that women are responsible for household water collection and water use and management, including promoting hygiene within the household and community.

On the other hand, men are perceived to be responsible for productive water use and management such as the running of farms or small businesses even though women are very much involved in productive water use as well.

Despite women’s significant role in water use and household management, their needs and uses of water are not often represented in water resource management policies or projects, according to a 2017 study co-authored by Maheshwari which looked at the gendered roles and responsibilities of water usage and collection in two watersheds of rural India.

Analysis of surveys across Meghraj watershed in Gujarat’s Aravalli district and the Dharta watershed in Rajasthan’s Udaipur district revealed that enhanced access to reliable and proximate water supply reduces the time spent by women in collecting water and the proportion of hard labour performed by them.

In addition, freed time may be spent on other income generating activities. Women interviewed indicated improved water access translated as diversified livelihood activities that increase their income earning potential and help strengthen their bargaining position.

The results confirm that a large number of women continue to travel many times a day to collect water for various uses. Women travelled an average of three times in a day for 50-77 minutes per trip to collect drinking water, depending on the season.

The responsibility of collecting water for drinking, domestic and livestock use also means girls are late to school or end up missing school altogether.

Further, the outcome highlighted the need for planners and policy decision makers to recognise the diverse roles that women play in groundwater use and management.

(In arrangement with Mongabay.com, a source for environmental news reporting and analysis. The views expressed are those of Mongabay.com. Feedback: [email protected])

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Guru Tegh Bahadur Martyrdom Day: J-K Lt Governor Pays Tribute To Sikh Guru

Manoj Sinha noted that the pious day is a reminder to respect and uphold the ‘faith, belief and rights of people’.

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Manoj Sinha

Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha paid rich tributes to Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh guru, on his martyrdom day on Tuesday.

“The teachings and martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur underline one of the most fundamental principles of human existence, which is ensuring the right of everyone to breathe free and live unshackled,” Sinha said.

Guru Teg Bahadur’s sacrifice is an important reminder for the future generations to be committed towards upholding the faith, belief and rights of people, he added.

On this pious day, everyone must resolve to dedicate themselves to selfless service of others, the LG said.

“Peaceful co-existence, mutual respect for each other’s religious beliefs go a long way in uplifting individual lives and achieving harmony and compassion in the society,” he added.

Guru Tegh Bahadur was born on April 1, 1621. He resisted forced conversions of Hindus, Sikhs, Kashmiri Pandits and non-Muslims to Islam and was killed on this day in 1675 on the orders of the then Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in Delhi.

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More Than Half Of 20-Year-Olds In India’s Metros Likely To Develop Diabetes In Lifetime

As many as 134 million people in India, with more women at risk, could be afflicted with diabetes by 2045 due to reduced physical activity and poor diet.

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More than half of men and nearly two-thirds of women currently aged 20 years in India could develop diabetes in their lifetime, with most of those cases likely to be type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.

The research, published in the journal Diabetologia, estimated the probability of a metropolitan Indian of any age or body mass index (BMI) developing diabetes in their lifetime.

According to the scientists, including those from the Centre for Chronic Disease Control (CCDC) in New Delhi, the country already has a significant health burden caused by diabetes with more than 77 million adults currently afflicted by the condition, and the number expected to almost double to 134 million by 2045.

As urban centres continue to grow rapidly across India, they said decreasing diet quality, and decreased levels of physical activity are all contributing to this hidden epidemic.

In the study, the researchers assessed age-, sex- and BMI-specific incidence rates of diabetes in urban India based on data from the Centre for Cardiometabolic Risk Reduction in South Asia (2010-2018).

They also analysed the age-, sex- and urban-specific rates of mortality from period lifetables reported by the Government of India (2014), and the prevalence of diabetes reported by the Indian Council for Medical Research India Diabetes Study (2008-2015).

Based on the analysis, the scientists said the lifetime risk of developing diabetes in 20-year-old men and women free of diabetes today is 56 and 65 per cent, respectively.

Women generally had a higher lifetime risk across the lifespan, the study noted.

According to the researchers, for those currently aged 60 years and currently free of diabetes, around 38 per cent of women and 28 per cent of men would go on to develop diabetes.

They cautioned that obesity had a substantial impact on these projections, with the lifetime risk highest among obese metropolitan Indians — 86 per cent among 20-year-old women, and 87 per cent among men.

People with lower BMI had considerably higher diabetes-free life expectancy and obese 20-year-olds were estimated to have around half of their remaining life years free from diabetes.

However, those with normal or underweight BMI were projected to live out most of their remaining years diabetes-free, the scientists said.

“The remarkably high lifetime risk of developing diabetes and the low diabetes-free life expectancy in India’s metropolitan cities, especially for individuals with high BMI, implies that interventions targeting the incidence of diabetes may be of paramount importance moving forward,” the researchers noted in the study.

They noted that metropolitan Indians at every age and BMI have an alarmingly high probability of developing diabetes compared with results from high-income countries, and that proactive efforts to prevent diabetes in cities are urgently needed.

According to the scientists, this is particularly needed given the rapid increase in “urban obesogenic environments” across the country.

In addition to these risk factors, the scientists said Indians already have a relatively high predisposition to developing the condition at both lower ages and lower BMIs when compared with white European populations.

“Such high probabilities of developing diabetes will have severely negative implications for India”s already strained health system and also out-of-pocket expenditure on diabetes treatment by patients, unless diabetes is immediately acknowledged for what it is,” said study co-author Shammi Luhar from the University of Cambridge in the UK.

“Despite these very high predicted lifetime risks of diabetes, it is possible to prevent or postpone diabetes by effective lifestyle modification, such as following a healthy diet, by increasing physical activity and reducing body weight in those who are obese or overweight,” added Viswanathan Mohan, another co-author of the research from the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation in Chennai.

The scientists believe the need of the hour is policy and investment with clearly spelt out targets and commitments to meet by 2030.

“Perhaps an aspirational target of ’90-90-90′ (90 per cent of people with diabetes detected, 90 per cent of those detected treated, and 90 per cent of those treated controlled), is imminently needed,” said study co-author Nikhil Tandon from the Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi.

“Such a target could operate in the same way as the 90-90-90 targets introduced some years ago for HIV, which has since been replaced by even more ambitious 95-95-95 targets,” Tandon added.

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Tarun Gogoi: Supreme Court lawyer who went on to become longest serving CM of Assam

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Tarun Gogoi started his political career as a ward member of the Jorhat Municipality in 1968. In 1971, he was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) in the Lok Sabha and served for six terms till 2001, first from Jorhat and later from Koliabor.

Former Assam chief minister and veteran Congress leader Tarun Gogoi succumbed to post-COVID complications on November 23. The Congressman was rushed to GMCH on 2 November due to post-Covid complications, just a week after he was released. He was first admitted to the hospital on 26 August after testing positive for Covid-19.

Expressing his grief, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Shri Tarun Gogoiji was a popular leader and a veteran administrator, who had years of political experience in Assam as well as the Centre. Anguished by his passing away. My thoughts are with his family and supporters in this hour of sadness. Om Shanti.”

Political Journey:

Tarun Gogoi started his political career as a ward member of the Jorhat Municipality in 1968. In 1971, he was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) in the Lok Sabha and served for six terms till 2001, first from Jorhat and later from Koliabor.

As the leader of the Congress party in Assam for over 50 years, Gogoi was first elected joint secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in 1976 under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He later served as general secretary of the AICC (1985–90) under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Gogoi served six terms as a Lok Sabha MP from Assam. He first represented Jorhat for three terms between 1971 and 1985. He was later elected from Kaliabor in 1991-96 and then 1998-2002. The Kaliabor seat is currently held by his son Gaurav Gogoi.

He stayed CM from 2001 to 2016, a total of 15 years.

Gogoi, a lawyer by profession, was in court to assist Congress leader P Chidambaram. The last time the former chief minister was in court to argue a case was in 1983. After more than three decades, Gogoi in December attended court proceedings as a lawyer as the Supreme Court took up a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship Amendment Act. Gogoi had opposed the Citizenship Act, calling it “discriminatory”.

States in the Northeast, especially Assam, witnessed intense protests in the wake of the Citizenship Amendment Act, ever since the Bill was tabled in the Rajya Sabha. Army and paramilitary columns were called in to control the violence.

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