Uranium traces in tubewell water in Punjab

Bathinda, Punjab: Low to very high traces of uranium were detected in water samples taken from tubewells in 43 villages in Bhagta Bhai Ke, Mour, Nathana, Phul and Rampura blocks of the district. The samples, taken by a government lab, were analysed by the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai.

High cases of cancer have already been reported from these villages. Dullewala village in Phul block has the highest concentration of uranium with 295.8 parts particle per billion of water (ppb) found from a 500-ft deep tubewell. The Indian health standards state uranium traces up to 60 ppb are permissible while the World Health Organisation (WHO) puts the permissible limit at 15 ppb. Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh had recently stated in Mohali that groundwater contamination in Punjab was 50 per cent more than the WHO standards. The BARC report, however, reveals that the contamination is many times more than that.

The report has put 13 villages in the high-risk category. These are Dullewalla (295.8 ppb), Patti Karam Chand (164 ppb), Giddar (140 .5 ppb), Bhai Rupa (116 ppb), Sema (101 ppb), Kalyan Sukha (94.1 ppb), Bhai Rupa (88.6 ppb), Dhapali (87 ppb), Dhinger (77.8 ppb), Bhaini (66 ppb), Ghurelli (66 ppb), Pitho (65 ppb), Sandhu Khurd (62.9 ppb) and Salabatpura (61 ppb). Though the state government has installed reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment plants at several places, not all are benefitted.

XEN (Public Health) Veenakshi Sharma said RO water was safe, but all were not having it for varied reasons. She said the government was trying to spread awareness regarding RO water so that the entire population in the area was covered.

“However, the RO process is costly and there are problems like disposing of waste water after purification. Nearly 50 per cent of the water used for purification goes waste and there is no safe method to dispose it”. She said there was still inconclusive evidence to show what was actually causing cancer and whether merely purifying drinking water could solve the problem.

2 comments

  1. Lot is said about the drinking water problem in Punjab, particularly in Malwa region. Here I want to make one comment: If what you said about RO process is correct, half of the water fed to the unit goes to waste and the other half for human consumption. Assuming that uranium is reduced to a small or negligible level in the drinking water the uranium in the reject water is doubled in uranium concentration compared to the feed. This waste water is ultimately going into the ground.  That means we are enriching the ground with uranium. In the long run the effect will be locally felt. That is highly undesirable. So, some thinking and proper planning should go into these decisions. Alternate treatment methods should be evaluated before a large scale adoption of a process is undertaken. But RO has the advantage of simultaneously removing many metals  that might cause health problems.
    In this connection I refer the interested to a lengthy report prepared by a team of Punjab University Scientists on the topic: “Uranium in ground Water in Malwa region: Scientific opinion and Fact sheet”.

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