Problem not due to fertilisers: PAU

Ludhiana, Punjab: Experts of Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, have said fertiliser use in the state was not responsible for high level of uranium in groundwater. Dr US Sadana, head of Department of Soil Sciences, said uranium content in soil of experimental plots, where phosphatic fertilisers were applied for 30 years, was 5.2 mg per kg soil, which was within the normal range of 0.3 to 11.7 mg per kg soil.

Challenging the assertion made by Atomic Energy Department Secretary RK Sinha that granite rocks were responsible for high uranium content in subsoil water in the state, nuclear physicist Dr HS Virk said subsoil water in the state originated from the alluvial basin of the Indo-Gangetic plains and the hypothesis with regard to presence of granite rocks in the state was not valid. Sinha’s assertion was far from the truth, he said.

Dr Virk, who has published his research findings on environmental radiation hazards in Punjab, said: “If leaching of uranium from granite rocks enhances uranium content in groundwater in Malwa belt, then why it is found to be high in Ludhiana, Moga, Nawanshahr, Ropar and Hoshiarpur districts, which have no granite rocks?”

He said a research paper on geochemical modelling of uranium in the sub-surface aquatic environment of Punjab by scientists of the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC) also negated Sinha’s hypothesis.

Recently, Dr Virk collected groundwater samples from 12 locations such as Jajjal, Malkana and Giania, the villages with high incidence of cancer cases in Talwandi Sabo region of Bathinda district. The samples were analysed using a laser technique at the radiation lab of Mangalore University. The results showed high uranium content in the range of 76 to 205 ppb (microgram per litre). The safe limit of uranium in the ground water is 60 ppb, according to the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board of India.

Dr Virk said the mystery behind cancer cases in Malwa should be solved by medical science. A team of epidemiologists of international repute should handle the task, he said.

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