#India – Uranium waste contaminates water in Jharkhand


Saturday, Jun 8, 2013, 8:21 IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

Reckless dumping of radioactive waste in Jharkhand is contaminating surface and ground water, putting thousands of locals at risk of developing cancer, according to a report by independent researchers.

The Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), a subsidiary of the Department of Atomic Energy, supplies uranium (yellow cake) to nuclear power plants in the country. It mines and processes uranium at seven mines in Jharkhand’s Jaduguda area. According to atomic experts, sludge and waste from uranium mines has to be scientifically disposed of as it contains around 85% radioactive substances.

Scientific disposal means creating pits that are covered, protected, cordoned off and made flood-proof. A tailing pond over an area of 30-40 acres must be created for disposal of sludge. These ponds too have to be cordoned off, made flood-proof and ensure that it prevents overflow. The waste decays to produce radium-226, which in turn produces Radon gas, a very powerful cancer-causing agent. For its three new mines i.e. Turamdih, Banduhurang and Mohuldih Uranium Mine, UCIL has one tailing pond at Talsa village, which fails to prevent sludge overflow and is not even fenced.

PT George, director of research institute Intercultural Resources, and independent writer Tarun Kanti Bose, spent six months studying the effects of uranium mining in the areas around the mines. Their report, Paradise Lost, released recently, states that UCIL’s irresponsible dumping in the vicinity of Jaduguda village (in Purbi Singhbhum district) is extremely worrisome as continued exposure to radiation will lead to increased cases of leukaemia and other blood diseases.

Heaps of uranium mining wastes have been abandoned in Dhodanga, Kerwadungri villages and those around Banduhurang open cast mine, according to the report. “The dumping has been going on for the last five years,” said Ghanshyam Birulee, a 45-year-old resident of Jaduguda village. “Despite complaints to UCIL, it has failed to take any action.”

Danger zone

Their report, Paradise Lost,  states that UCIL’s irresponsible dumping in the vicinity of Jaduguda village (in Purbi Singhbhum district) is extremely worrisome as continued exposure to radiation will lead to increased cases of leukaemia and other blood diseases

However, the nuclear regulator Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) said that it has not received any complaint so far on water contamination due to careless dumping of wastes by UCIL.

“AERB periodically inspects UCIL facilities to ensure that the waste management practices are followed and only treated effluent is discharged in Jhuria nallah which eventually meets the Gara River. Sludge generated in the effluent treatment plant is also disposed securely at the tailings pond. According to the site sample collected and analyzed the concentrations of uranium and radium observed in surface and ground water around Jaduguda are well within the specified drinking water limits.”

 

#India – Uranium mining posing danger to people, habitat


KADAPA, June 5, 2013

Special Correspondent, the Hindu

Memorandum submitted to in-charge Collector

Uranium mining at Thummalapalle in Pulivendula and Kadiri in Anantapur district is leading to radiation and causing water pollution, thus endangering the health of people, Rayalaseema Rashtra Samithi president K. Venkatasubba Reddy alleged on Tuesday.

People were perturbed at reports that uranium purification plant would be set up at P. Kothapalli in Nambulapoolakunta mandal in Anantapur district, he said in a press release here. The effects of radiation were evident in Somavandlapalle, Velagalabailu and other villages in Thalupula mandal in Anantapur district and RIMS doctors were collecting blood samples of the people and enquiring about their health as the radiation was said to have been causing cancer, he said.

Uranium Corporation of India Limited and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre officials have inspected lands in P. Kothapalle panchayat in accordance with the plans to set up the uranium purification plant. The UCIL plant at Thummalapalle has an installed capacity to produce 3,000 tonnes of uranium. A 140 km. tunnel was being dug for excavating uranium and it caused steep depletion of groundwater, he said. Drinking water was being contaminated and water was not available for irrigation, he alleged.

Meanwhile, United Forum Against Uranium Project, leaders L. Nagasubba Reddy, P. Siva Reddy, K. Jayasri, R. Shamir Basha, M. Bhaskar and K. Srinivasulu Reddy submitted a memorandum to in-charge District Collector K. Nirmala complaining against the UCIL Executive Director. The UCIL laid tailing pipeline through two acres of land belonging to L. Damodar Reddy in Mabbuchinthalapalle in Vemula mandal, they alleged.

The pipeline leakage on April 22 led to the death of goats due to internal chemical injuries and skin burns when they entered the sludge pond. The UCIL officials tried to hush up the matter by getting the sick livestock treated by veterinary doctors and issuing compensation cheques to farmers for the death of the livestock, they said.

PRESS RELEASE- Jharkhandi Organisation against Radiation , Jadugoda


 Press release – JOAR (Jharkhandi Organisation against Radiation, Jadugoda) 

“ A person standing on tailing dam for a period of one year would still not be affected by any radiation” (Translated from hindi)

 Mr. S. K. Malhotra (Head of Public awareness, Department of Atomic Energy (13th April, 2013, Dainik Bhaskar)

This remark came on the concluding day of the much hyped International seminar, first of its kind hosted by UCIL in its long history of its operation in Jadugoda and surrounding areas.

In  Collaboration with International Atomic Energy Agency **(1), UCIL held a  hyped five day Seminar cum Training so called “ Uranium Exploration Strategy, Mining and Processing Techniques in India ” in a Posh hotel in Jamshedpur between 8-12 April. According to Media coverage, this Seminar saw attendance of close to 50 delegates from 25 countries and also 9 scientists from India. 

This Seminar was quite contrary to the way it was promoted as it turned out to be a covert event conducted under high security and no one was allowed to enter the premises without the pass. When students and members of the JOAR tried to attend the seminar, they were prohibited and even became target of threat by the Intelligence Officials. This raises question on choosing a posh hotel in Jamshedpur, when this could have been conducted in their own compound in Jadugoda. This programme actually turned nothing but just a propaganda to counter JOAR’s claim of severe health and environment catastrophe due to uranium mining in the region based on community experience, supported by studies conducted by reputed International organization and Universities** (2). U.C.I.L reiterated the old rhetoric that Jadugoda had low radiation, it had low grade ore here, no harmful impact of radiation, and radiation level was similar in Jaduoda and Jamshedpur…! U.C.I.L once again came aggressively that myths regarding radiation were part of an International conspiracy which was creating those misconceptions among the local People through their agents working in this region. These agents lifestyle has suddenly improved during the last few years and they even go for a foreign trip once a year. In fact CMD of U.C.I.L even said that PMO was aware of the protest happening here and other parts of country and it was keeping a close eye on it. UCIL believes unemployment is one of the main reasons for the protest and not impact of uranium mining on culture and environment.

This high voltage drama took place for five days.  On one of the days, all the delegates were taken for a visit to the Jadugoda Mines. A Foreign delegate was so overwhelmed by the visit to the mines that he later spoke to the media that this was the first time any country had given such open access to the mines. This raises a big question when the UCIL didn’t allow even media enter the public hearing in Bhatin (May 26, 2011), forget about  members and activists of JOAR and others.

.  Why this kindness and whole heartedness of the government has come up after 40 years?  On one hand, UCIL uses crores of taxpayers money to host this lavish seminar inviting foreign delegates whose credibility is unknown, but had it announced an independent study done by independent experts who have good acceptance among the all,  this would have gained  trust of the people and it could have washed some of its old sins.

What seems bizarre is UCIL blowing the same tune regarding health in this  so called International seminar which It has been doing for the last few years. It once again rejected any claim of health hazard prevalent in the region and  said that it had done health check up of 3000 people during the last one year and still no cases of female sterility or cancer was detected in anyone and there were few  cases only related to malnutrition and Malaria ( Weekly test are done and sent to environment ministry), on the other hand  IDPD studies have clearly shown that these health hazards have increased in the area compared to distant villages. (ippnw.org/pdf/jadugoda-health-survey.pdf)   U.C.I.L claimed that there is increase in the number of children in schools every year, that Jadugoda had one of the lowest drop out rate of students and that U.C.I.L has even built four marriage halls in the past one year.

In the seminar, a statement by a UCIL official which has raised alarm bell is that there are plans to not have a separate tailing pond and looking for solution to store the radioactive waste in the mines itself. They will be cautious about the amount of acid leaching and alkali leaching being used, proper care would be taken to  ensure that the rocks beneath don’t melt. With no current remedy for the three tailing dams which will have radioactive waste for thousands of years, this plan may be disastrous for the  entire ecology as the dangerous toxic chemicals may  pollute the underground aquifers, affecting ground water which will impact the entire region. In fact in newspapers(Prabhat Khabar and Hindustan dated 12th April , 2013 ), It has been reported by one of the  Expert who participated in the conference that they are ready with a technology where the uranium tailings can be mixed with sand and chemicals which would be ready for cultivation of diverse plants  and  also an already mentioned remark that even if a person stood on tailing dam for a period of one year,  one would still be not  affected by radiation, on the other hand  the research by Kyoto university professor Koide (http://www.jca.apc.org/~misatoya/jadugoda/english/koide.html ) says that the bank of tailing pond contains 10 to 100 times higher amount of  gamma radiation above normal  permissible levels.

All throughout  the seminar when U.C.I.L repeatedly said that Uranium mining is safe and there is no harm due to radiation, why couldn’t it proceed with mining in Nalgonda ( Andhra Pradesh ) in the recent past  . Why couldn’t they convince the educated people of Hyderabad who have immense pride for the nation compared to Jaduogoda ? These well- off people may not have any vested interest in going for foreign trip once a year. U.C.I.L would not have to invest on building public schools or four marriage halls in the region.

 In a democratic country like ours, U.C.I.L and DAE can’t just ignore the long suppressed voices calling them anti-national, backward etc. The children in Jadugoda will one day raise these questions and the nation have to answer those queries and it can’t  just pull things under the carpet as it did in the just concluded so called international seminar. We want to say that truth can’t be hidden for long especially during these times when people can access information from any part of the world  and know  the truth. U.C.I.L can do a concrete programme showing concern and being  accountable to the people rather than wasting common man’s tax to do these kind of event which is just to boast about its achievements

 JOAR has the following demands :

1. UCIL should follow the international safety standards like  other countries like USA (Like Church Rock clean up –( health, soil and water), Wismut Uranium mine clean up ( Former East Germany Uranium mine)

2. Stop  Uranium mining in new regions and in the existing mines. Follow the latest regulations and safety standards of health and environment.

3. A new law should be passed in the Indian parliament to compensate the workers and community members affected by uranium mining (similar to one like RECA of USA.) Form a high level constitutional committee to investigate the death/sickness of the people in the region.

4. Do base line studies in the recently opened uranium mine sites and comprehensive health and environment study by independent groups of specialist.

5. Give justice to the demands all displaced people by UCIL mining in East Singbhum and West Singhbhum

6. UCIL should declare the future plans, as after few years when mining will cease, People would be left to face the hazardous radioactive waste.  How does it  plan to clean up the waste and reclaim it to same condition as it existed before mining. What about the Plans regarding economy as prior to mines there was an agrarian economy where people were dependent on land, water for survival. Will it abandon the mines? In that situation people would be left with no choice of livelihood .

Ghanshaym Birulee,

Dumka Murmu,

Tikaram Soren

JOAR

Tilai Tand, Jadugoda Jharkhand (India)

 

 

#India-More than reforms, it is revolution which is required


CLAUDE ARPI | Agency: DNA | Monday, December 31, 2012

During the last few days, innumerable experts have commented on or analysed the gang rape that triggered one of the largest mass protests the capital has witnessed in recent years.

With the death of the 23-year-old woman after her doubtful transfer to a Singapore ‘specialty’ hospital, the pressure on the government is mounting.

The protesters have many demands, including removal of Neeraj Kumar, the Delhi Police Commissioner, immediate compensation for rape victims; registration of FIRs for all complaints relating to rape, sexual harassment and crimes against women and safety for women in public transport.

All this is good, but will it solve the problem?

Having lived in India for the past 40 years and closely watched the Indian society, I would like to offer a comment, which seems to me very basic.

Many have spoken of ‘fast-track’ tribunals for the rapists. This demand is an admission in itself: there is no justice in India today.

There are many reasons why it is so. To put the blame entirely on the judiciary would be wrong. As for many other issues, it appears that the system has somewhere gone berserk, and only a revolution could change the status quo.

Hundreds of examples of justice being denied can be cited, but in the end, the outcome remains the same.

The Bofors has been one of the main scandals in modern India. The then prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, was suspected to have benefitted of kickbacks fromBofors to win a bid to supply 155 mm field Howitzers for the Indian Army. BoforsAB, a Swedish firm, was the main culprit.

The scam led to the defeat of the Congress in the November 1989 general elections.

Ottavio Quattrocchi, the middleman associated with the scandal, was an Italian businessman representing the petrochemicals firm Snamprogetti in India. He was reportedly close to the Gandhi family.

The Delhi High Court quashed all proceedings in the case in June, 2002. The order was reversed by the Supreme Court in July, 2003.

In January 2006, it was found that the CBI had unfrozen the bank accounts ofQuattrocchi who could flee the country. In 30 years, no justice has been rendered.

Then remember the Bhopal gas tragedy, one of the world’s worst industrial disasters. On the night of December 2, 1984, an accident at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal exposed lakhs of people to methylisocyanate gas.

The death toll estimates vary between 4,000 and 8,000. In an affidavit in 2006, the government admitted that the leak caused 5,58,125 injuries.

Civil and criminal cases have been pending for decades in the Bhopal District Court. In June 2010, Warren Anderson, the UCIL chairman, and seven UCILofficials were convicted of causing death by negligence and sentenced to two years imprisonment and fined about $2,000, the maximum punishment allowed by Indian law. Anderson could not be extradited and a meager compensation was paid to a few of the victims. Where is the justice?

Do you remember Harshad Mehta, the Mumbai stockbroker? He was charged with financial crimes that took place in 1992.

Cleverly exploiting loopholes in the banking system, Mehta siphoned off funds from inter-bank transactions and bought shares at a premium, triggering a rise in the Sensex. He was charged with 72 criminal offences, and more than 600 civil action suits were filed against him.

Of the criminal charges brought against him, he was only convicted of one, before his death at age 48, in 2001.

These are well-publicised cases, but there are thousands, if not lakhs, of smaller cases.

Take the case of road accidents. India has the dubious distinction of having the largest number of road casualties in the world. A government report says that in 2009, 1,25,660 people were killed in road accidents and another 5,15,458 received severe or minor injuries. It has probably increased since then.

The point is that inebriated or licenceless drivers are hardly punished and the family of the dead rarely compensated. It was reported that in Tamil Nadu, which has one of the highest number of road accidents, less than two-digit licences were withdrawn last year. No justice again.

Examples could go on.

It is unfortunate that the same thing happens for rape, sexual harassment or violence against women. More than reform, it is revolution which is required.

The street protests are perhaps a first manifestation of the ‘enough-is-enough’ popular sentiment. But the government is incapable of reading the writing on the wall.

One thing is sure, don’t expect the politicians or the judiciary to take the lead to bring more justice to the common men, it will never happen.

The author is a French-born journalist and writer

 

It is one of India’s best kept secrets-A Nightmare Called Jaduguda #Mustread


Disclaimer: this article contains some disturbing pictures.

Anuj Wankhede

The Dark Underbelly of Uranium Mining in India

It is one of India’s best kept secrets. This is the story of genocide.

After over 50 years of Independence, there is another India which nobody talks about.

Why?

Because nobody knows about Jaduguda.

I spoke to hundreds of people in Mumbai and not one person has ever heard of Jaduguda or its sad legacy.

What is happening in the name of National Pride and Self-Sufficiency is a NATIONAL SHAME. A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY.

Next time you charge your mobile phone, switch on the AC or your TV, think about the enormous and horrifying cost being extracted. Jaduguda in Jharkhand is one such cursed place. Cursed, because it has India’s largest uranium mines. A curse called uranium has poisoned generations and will continue to haunt all future generations too.

This is a story which a few people have tried to tell. Many times over.
Yet, no solution is in sight to this living horror.
But then, probably nobody has found an answer because nobody WANTS to find an answer?

SUMMARY:
The power that is fed into homes using nuclear energy has its genesis in Jharkhand, from where the raw material – Uranium – to power the reactors is extracted.

India has sufficient uranium deposits to build a few hundred nuclear bombs but it does not have the required amount of uranium to fuel its Atomic Power Plants. The largest deposits were found in the 1960s at Jaduguda and the nuclear lobby in India rushed in to exploit the ore there. Since 1967, the Jaduguda region of Bihar has been exploited for its uranium and so have its people.

The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) formed the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. (UCIL) with a mandate to explore and mine this precious ore. UCIL started the exploitation of man and nature the very next year in 1968.

Forty four years later it has created a tragic legacy which includes loss of health, disease, deaths, ruining of social fabric and professions, environmental destruction and irreparable damage to the ecology.

The only ones who have profitted from this deprivation are those associated with the Nuclear Club – those who need uranium for dubious power and atomic weapons.

THE FACTS:
The Jaduguda mines (and to a small extent, the uranium mines in Meghalaya and Andhra Pradesh) supply the bulk of the uranium needed as fuel to the ever increasing reactors in India. Currently, India has one Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) at Hyderabad in Southern India which is over a thousand kilometers from Jaduguda and even further from the North Eastern mines in Meghalaya.

The original mines at Jaduguda have since been expanded and now include the Narwapahar mines a few kilometres away. Together, they make it possible to extract thousands of tonnes of earth each day using a mix of techniques.

IN THE BEGINNING:

As it usually happens, the land where the uranium was discovered belonged to the tribals (adivasis), who had lived there for hundreds of years and co-existed with nature. Elders recall that the tribals were strong and rarely (if ever) fell ill. The ecology was self-sufficient with man and nature providing and caring for each other.

Enter UCIL.

As usual with any nuclear project, there was complete secrecy. This was easy in India of the 1960s and remains so even today. Anything nuclear is considered top secret and classified information and the DAE has to be brought kicking and screaming into courts before they divulge any information – at times even misinformation.

UCIL’s job was of course made easier because of the remoteness of the mines and the lack of education among the tribals. Moreover, the tribals were a trusting lot – as they would later discover to their peril.

Ergo, when UCIL commenced operations there, they acquired tribal land and made no mention about the kind of material that would be mined. Nor did they inform the locals about the hazardous nature of radiation.

As long as uranium remains in nature, buried deep within the earth, it is not dangerous. But the mining process brings it out in concentrated quantities, which is further ground into dust, and it is this phase where radiation starts taking its toll by entering the body and the ecology.

To understand this better look at the uranium cycle below –

At Jaduguda, the ore is mined, milled, refined into Yellow Cake and despatched to the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC), Hyderabad by road and then by trains.

As can be seen, uranium ore goes through a number of processing phases and at each stage it pollutes the environment in more ways than one.

It is important to note that unlike this diagram above, it is alleged that the depleted (or spent) uranium waste is brought back to Jaduguda for “disposal,” i.e. thrown away as debris!

When UCIL started operations, locals were promised firm jobs, medical facilities, schools, roads, better opportunities and some say even bribe money. There are stories of locals being taken to far off nuclear facilities so as to impress them about the high technology, cleanliness and safety of the project.

The tribals trusted the government and were trapped.

For UCIL, there was a need for people to go down into the bowels of the earth and come up with the uranium ore for which it deployed the tribals. They needed labour because even the best of mining technology still needs physical labour. The open pit mining requires people to physically go deep down into the mines to dig further and load the ore for transportation to the surface. From there on, the other processes are also labour intensive.

What this means is that ALL these people working in the mines were subjected to radiation for prolonged periods of time. They inhaled the uranium, worked with no protective clothing and ate contaminated food. When they finished work, they returned home and their contaminated uniforms were handled and washed by the other people at homes who started getting affected by the secondary contamination.

This, however, was only one form of the uranium poisoning.

The process used for uranium extraction involves conversion into a slurry from which the precious metal is extracted. The rest of the sludge is sent into to the “tailing ponds” which are supposed to hold the highly radioactive slurry.

In reality what happens is that the tailing ponds are unable to hold all the slurry and frequently overflow, especially during the monsoons. More radioactive uranium seeps into the ground and contaminates the groundwater and rivers.

The locals are forced to use the downstream river waters for everything ranging from washing, bathing, sowing and irrigation.

It is from here that the whole uranium contamination/ poisoning cycle takes a massive leap into the food chain spreading far and wide via crops, fruits, and animals. The grass growing here is highly radioactive and when animals graze, it enters their bodies and contaminates the milk and meat.

In short, uranium enters every part of the ecosystem and continues to spread further and further via the rivers, fish, the vegetables and fruits grown there and thus, what starts as a local mine affects a vast region within no time at all.

It was the legal, moral and ethical duty of UCIL to warn the locals about what was about to hit them. But that would obviously have not suited the government.

Ideally, the whole land which was acquired for mining, blasting, processing should have been out of bounds for people and the tailing ponds made in such a manner that there is no seepage into the ground. Warning boards put up to indicate high radiation and danger zones, limit the access to site only message workers and decontaminate all material worn and handled by the workers at the site itself. The processed ore should have been safely transported in well covered vehicles to the nearest railway yard for its thousand kilometer journey to NFC Hyderabad.

All this is not a utopian dream. It is common sense.

But then, I forgot that we are talking about the DAE and UCIL. Agencies for which only the ends matter – not the means to achieve these nefarious ends.

Here are the stark realities at Jaduguda and Narwapahar –

The river, which runs past Jaduguda, is met by the murky outflow from the mine workings. Here, people wash vegetables, sow and bathe in this extremely poisonous water.

Nowhere in the region does one see warning boards. It is an open invitation to use the resources here and get poisoned.

Trucks which carry the processed material from the mines are open dumpers with just a piece of plastic thrown over the top – most often, even this is missing. The dumpers spill the material on the roads all the way from the mines to the rail yards. Radiation level meters (Geiger counters) frequently go berserk as the radiation count exceeds the maximum limit which can be displayed on these meters.

Scientists designing these counters probably never imagined that any civilian region would possibly have this amount of radiation.

School buildings have been made of stone which was extracted during blasting of the mines. Placing the radiation meters on their walls makes the counters beep furiously.

Probably military grade instrumentation with higher limits needs to be used in these “civilian” areas.

Transport

The transport from the mines to Hyderabad is another horror story. Look at the picture of this open topped dumper truck below. Often, not even a plastic sheet is thrown over it. The trucks spill the ore along the way on the road sides. The hazardous material is loaded casually on goods trains which carry this material along with rakes filled with edible items.

Look at the handling of the drums in advanced countries and how the handling happens in the developing world.

A technical committee advising the government, comprising representatives of pollution control board, industries wing and a retired atomic energy expert, noted that radioactive radiations were less than the permissible limits in Jaduguda.

The Director of UCIL’s technical department Diwakar Acharya said this in defense – “They are all retired employees. Mining methods have changed a lot in the past two decades. Earlier, the workers’ health was in grave danger due to the lack of protective clothing and modern machinery. The technology we have today keeps them, as well as the local population, completely out of harm’s way,” he says.

The sad truth is that NOTHING has changed over the years here.

What has changed is the increased greed of UCIL, NPCIL, DAE and Government of India for more and more yellow cake…….

 

Anuj Wankhede

Anuj is a Microbiologist and has a Masters in Management. A keen observer and commentator, he is an avid environmentalist who believes that ‘bigger the problem, bigger the opportunity.’He can be reached at benchmark.anuj (at) gmail.com and 9757475875.

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