PATNA, DEC 27: People living near the Jadugoda mines in Singhbhum district of South Bihar have severely been affected by uranium radioactivity, according to a latest report of the environment committee of Bihar legislative council.
The Jadugoda mines have been yielding uranium for a long time, which is used in nuclear research in the country.
The report of the committee, prepared by its chief Gautam Sagar Rana and submitted to legislative council chairman Zabir Hussain, states that Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) has been dumping waste products in a nearby pond and it has led to sickness of many tribal people who use the pond's radioactive water. The report also states that a medical team sent by the state government has also reached a similar conclusion.
As many as 46 tribal families have been shifted from the mines area following mounting pressure from the environment committee to that end.
The district magistrate of Singhbhum district blamed the media, particularly the BBC, for highlightingthe issue and said that the incident should not have been made public since uranium-related activities fall under the category of national security.
The medical team led by KK Singh, head of the department of radiology, Patna Medical College & Hospital, visited the site and took samples from the tailing pond only to find traces of uranium in its water. The team held UCIL responsible for dumping radioactive waste into the tailing pond which was not fenced and, therefore, was accessible to cattle and humans alike.
Subsequently, in a letter dated April 6, 1998, the technical director of UCIL, KK Beri, informed the deputy commissioner's office, Singbhum, that the tailing pond has been covered and the 54 people identified by the medical team are not suffering from any diseases caused by uranium radioactivity.
The medical team which visited the site between January 27 and 31, found 54 people to have been affected by radiation. However it prepared a cautious report stating that, "As regards the cause-effectrelationship of these diseases with radioactivity, we can neither establish nor exclude the same at this stage".
The letter addressed to the civil surgeon and chief medical officer, East Singbhum, also mentions that, "In keeping with government protocol we recommend that all further investigations be likewise conducted at recognised government institutions".
As a precautionary measure the environment committee has recommended: That the inhabitants of the area be shifted at least five km away from the mines and the tailing pond; That waste materials containing traces of radioactivity be taken to effluent treatment plants through pipes and not drains; That notice boards highlighting the hazardous nature of radioactive materials be displayed prominently at the mining site.
The environment committee has in its report lamented the lack of proper security arrangement in the area in view of the fact that uranium mining comes under national security. "We have investigated the entire matterdeeply before submitting the report to the council of Bihar," the committee chairman said.
Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.