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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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Madhya Pradesh farmers hopeful of being ‘debt-free’ as loan waiver scheme kicks-off

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Bhopal, Jan 22 : A week after the launch of the loan waiver scheme in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress government claims 19.54 lakh farmers have filed their applications in the six days till Sunday.

While the opposition BJP has been calling the “Jai Kisan Rin Mukti Yojana” a trick to cheat the farmers, the question is how the farmers of the state perceive the entire exercise.

Kailash Chaudhary, a farmer from Mandsaur district’s Babulda village, said: “About two years ago, six farmers sacrificed their lives for their rights in Pipliya Mandi. This is the beginning of the victory of their fight.”

“Forms are being filled for waiver of loans up to Rs 2 lakh. We feel that the government is taking our demands seriously,” Chaudhary told IANS.

Mandsaur was the centre of farmers’ agitation in 2017 when six farmers were killed in police firing in June, 2017. After the incident, the farmers’ movement had taken over the whole state, which then spread to the whole nation.

Farmer’s leader Kedar Sirohi said: “Farmers in different parts of the state are excited about the loan waiver. They are filing applications in large numbers.”

“To ensure they don’t face any difficulty in filing applications, leaders and workers of farmer organisations are helping them. Government officials is also alert to help out the farmers. Colour coding of application forms has made it easier for farmers to fill out the applications,” he said.

According to official figures, out of the 19.54 lakh forms filed till Sunday, around 60 per cent were green forms, 35 per cent were white forms and 5 percent were pink forms. The farmers are hopeful of becoming debt-free through this exercise.

As per the scheme, the farmers of the Aadhaar seeded list will have to submit green applications and the farmers of non-Aadhar seeded list will have to submit white coloured applications. Farmers have to submit a pink application to file an objection or claim against information provided in the green or white list.

However, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had been accusing the Congress of misleading the farmers and terming the scheme a trick to cheat them.

Former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan said the Congress promise of a loan waiver won’t be fulfilled by a mere announcement.

“The Chief Minister (Kamal Nath) and Congress leaders are saying they have fulfilled their promise of loan waiver to the farmers. But the promise has not yet been fulfilled. An announcement does not mean fulfillment of the promise,” he said, adding the Congress was misleading the farmers.

Congress spokesperson Syed Jaffer responded that 55 lakh farmers will get their loans waived of under the scheme, for which the due process needs to be followed.

“No matter what charges the BJP makes, the truth is that farmers are happy and they trust that the Congress is fulfilling the promise that they made to them,” he said.

“Those farmers who are in debt, neither are they now receiving notices from the banks nor is their property being seized. Under BJP rule, farmers had to go to jail and lose their property just for not paying their power bills,” Jaffer told IANS.

Calling the scheme pro-farmer, farmer leader Shiv Kumar Sharma told IANS that political parties were creating doubts about the scheme.

“Farmers were reeling under debt which had increased manifold over the last one-and-a-half decade. Now they are getting waiver of up to Rs 2 lakh. The government is new and one should wait before making adverse comments,” he said.

Kamal Nath had signed the farm loan waiver file soon after taking oath as the Chief Minister. The filing of forms for the waiver started from January 15 and will continue till February 5.

According to the government, farmers will start getting the money in their loan accounts from February 22.

The Chief Minister had said that the scheme would benefit around 55 lakh farmers by waiving their loans worth Rs 50,000 crore.

(Sundeep Pouranik can be contacted at [email protected])

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Entertainment industry is run by a glamorous mafia: Pahlaj Nihalani

Dropping another bomb, Nihalani says he suspects the hands of some big guns in sabotaging “Rangeela Raja”.

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Mumbai, Jan 22 :Govinda, “Rangeela Raja”, Pahlaj Nihalani-backed comeback vehicle for Govinda, did not open well. Nihalani says it is because his film did not get the theatres required as the entertainment industry is run by a “glamorous mafia”.

“I am being targeted for my blunt views on the workings of censor board, and because of me, my leading man Govinda is being targeted. If you ask me, Govinda and I have the maximum number of enemies in the film industry,” Nihalani said.

Lamenting the lack of theatres for “Rangeela Raja”, Nihalani says he was refused a release in places like Bihar and Jharkhand.

“These are traditional strongholds of Govinda. And not a single theatre in Patna or Ranchi agreed to play ‘Rangeela Raja’. Why? Because my film is bad? Are only quality films released in theatres? And who decides that my film is substandard? A handful of critics for whom I did not have a press show, so they are upset with me and they are taking it out on my film,” he said.

Dropping another bomb, Nihalani says he suspects the hands of some big guns in sabotaging “Rangeela Raja”.

“I know who they are. I know the people who want to finish off Govinda and me. The entertainment industry is run by a glamorous mafia. They all sit, eat, sleep and make movies together. Solo producers like me with no corporate backing are being pushed out of the film industry in the name of corporotization,” he said.

But Nihalani says he isn’t going away anywhere.

“I belong to this industry as much as those who are currently monopolising the A-list stars. I will make another film with Govinda and prove he too is an A-list star.”

Nihalani says he has always believed in introducing new talent and will continue to do so.

“I introduced Govinda and Chunky Pandey. In ‘Rangeela Raja’ I’ve introduced Mishika Chourasia. I am confident she has a very bright future. Unless the industry will punish her for being Pahlaj Nihalani’s protege.”

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BenQ launches 4K home cinema projectors in India

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New Delhi, Jan 22 : Taiwanese electronics company BenQ on Tuesday launched two new 4K home cinema projectors — “W2700” and “W5700” — with CinematicColor technology, projector-optimised HDR-PRO support and individual factory colour calibration in India.

The new projectors, “W2700” and “W5700”, priced at Rs 2.49 lakh and Rs 2.99 lakh respectively, are the world’s first 4K home cinema projectors, the company said.

“With this new range of 4K projectors, we are extremely optimistic that these will turn any room into a world-class home theatre with video enhancing technologies,” said Rajeev Singh, Managing Director, BenQ India.

Fuelled by DCI-P3 colour space, “W2700” delivers the highest level of image accuracy while the “W5700” projector provides a 1.6X big zoom along with 2D H/V lens shift that is ideal for audio visual (AV) rooms.

The HDR-PRO supported projectors also incorporate auto colour and tone mapping techniques to offer improved brightness and contrast range along with ideal image optimization for vivid video quality.

Designed with a compact profile, the light weight projectors facilitate tailored AV personalization with versatile short throw, big zoom and lens shift for a wide range of home cinema possibilities, the company said.

The projectors would begin shipping in the first quarter of 2019.

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