Dr. Hema Gandotra
Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology,
University of Jammu, Jammu.


Dr. Hema Gandotra, Displacement and Environment|http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyAkLPF0uAM


The present paper is an attempt to address the issue of environmental problems faced by a community after displacement. The paper will specifically focus on the Kashmiri Pandit migrants who got displaced in 1989-90 and were settled in the various camps in Jammu city and will try to analyse the environmental problems particularly health, water and sanitation problems faced by the community after displacement.

Environmental health relates to the impact that the environment can have on a population. Environmental health programmes include technical inputs related to water, the disposal of excreta and solid waste, vector control, shelter and the promotion of hygiene. As such water and sanitation programmes contribute only in part to the overall environmental health of a population. The success of an environmental health programme largely depends upon how the component parts relate to each other and water and sanitation can be considered as the foundation of such a programme. The term `sanitation’ is often taken to refer only to the disposal of human excreta. The concept of `environ-mental sanitation’ refers to the hygienic disposal of human excreta, solid wastes, wastewater and the control of disease vectors. There is a growing recognition that water and sanitation needs should not be looked at in isolation, but should form part of a holistic programme attempting to address the total environmental health needs of an emergency-affected community. The aim of a water and sanitation programme in an emergency is to attempt to modify the environment in which the disease-carrying organisms are simultaneously most vulnerable and threatening to humans. Modifying an environment to make it less favorable to disease-carrying organisms such as flies and rats (referred to as vector control), or minimizing the areas of stagnant water around a populated area by means of good drainage, can play a significant role in reducing the transmission cycle of a number of diseases.

Human-caused and natural disasters expose populations to considerable health risks by disrupting their established patterns of water use, defecation and waste disposal. Displaced populations are often accommodated in camps where population densities are considerably greater than in even the most densely settled rural areas. It is vital, therefore, that they follow sanitation practices which reduce the risk of major outbreaks of diarrheal disease; control of defecation practices can play a large part in this. Invariably this means the use of latrines and improving personal hygiene. Whilst some displaced populations are already familiar with latrines and others are able to adapt to their use without much difficulty, many displaced people are not familiar with them. Their arrival in a densely populated camp will force them to realize that their old habits pose a sudden threat to their health, and will require them to change their life-long defecation practices.

Lack of proper sanitation is a major concern for India. Statistics conducted by UNICEF have shown that only 31% of India’s population is using improved sanitation facilities as of 2008. It is estimated that one in every ten deaths in India is linked to poor sanitation and hygiene. Diarrhea is the single largest killer and accounts for one in every twenty deaths. Around 450,000 deaths were linked to diarrhea alone in 2006, of which 88% were deaths of children below five. Studies by UNICEF have also shown that diseases resulting from poor sanitation affects children in their cognitive development. Without proper sanitation facilities in India, people defecate in the open or rivers. One gram of faeces could potentially contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, 1000 parasite cysts and 100 worm eggs. The Ganges river in India has a stunning 1.1 million litres of raw sewage being disposed into it every minute. The high level of contamination of the river by human waste allow diseases like cholera to spread easily, resulting in many deaths, especially among children who are more susceptible to such viruses.

A lack of adequate sanitation also leads to significant economic losses for the country. A Water and sanitation Program (WSP) study The Economic Impacts of Inadequate Sanitation in India (2010) showed that inadequate sanitation caused India considerable economic losses, equivalent to 6.4 per cent of India’s GDP in 2006 at US$53.8 billion (Rs.2.4 trillion). In addition, the poorest 20% of households living in urban areas bore the highest per capita economic impacts of inadequate sanitation. Recognizing the importance of proper sanitation, the Government of India started the Central Rural Sanitation Program (CRSP) in 1986, in hope of improving the basic sanitation amenities of rural areas. This program was later reviewed and, in 1999, the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) was launched. Programs such as Individual Household Latrines (IHHL), School Sanitation and Hygiene Education (SSHE), Community Sanitary Complex, Anganwadi toilets were implemented under the TSC. Through the TSC, the Indian Government hopes to stimulate the demand for sanitation facilities, rather than to continually provide these amenities to its population. This is a two-pronged strategy, where the people involved in this program take ownership and better maintain their sanitation facilities, and at the same time, reduces the liabilities and costs on the Indian Government. This would allow the government to reallocate their resources to other aspects of development. Thus, the government set the objective of granting access to toilets to all by 2017. To meet this objective, incentives are given out to encourage participation from the rural population to construct their own sanitation amenities.

Water is the single most important provision for any population; people can survive much longer without food than they can without water. In an emergency situation, the provision of water should be looked upon as a dynamic process, aiming to move from initially providing sufficient quantities of reasonable quality water to improving the quality and use of the available water. Adopting such an evolutionary approach will go some way to helping people derive the greatest benefit from the intervention. For example, displaced people who are living in a camp for the first time may find their normal washing practices inadequate for their current densely populated living conditions. The provision of bathing facilities, and encouraging people to use them more frequently, may have a significant impact upon their environmental health in helping to prevent the spread of skin diseases. People will always use the available water facilities if there are no alternatives; if they do not, they will not survive. Hygienic excreta disposal, on the other hand, is not fundamental to immediate survival needs.

Whenever a community gets displaced, the discussions among the social scientists generally revolve around the issue of loss of identity, socio-economic conditions of the displaced community, the health problems which generally include the problems related to the change in weather, loss of socio-cultural fabric etc. But there is hardly any discussion on the issue of environmental sanitation and water programmes and similar was the situation in case of Kashmiri Pandit migrants. One would find a bulk of literature on the issue of preservation of identity among the Kashmiri Pandits but hardly finds any literature on the problems of sanitation and water among these Pandit families after displacement. More than 50,000 families migrated during 1989-90 and around 38,000 families got registered with the relief organization and these families were accommodated by the government in emergency at different places and were later put up in the different camps of Jammu city. The paper will try to look at the various environmental problems faced by these migrants in the camps which would be discussed in detail during the presentation.


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