Telangana sitting on atomic time bomb as high levels of uranium concentration found in groundwater
The frighteningly high uranium concentration in groundwater samples were found by the AMD.
The atomic energy officials have red-flagged the startling findings of AMD on high uranium concentration around Lambapur-Peddagattu region to various government agencies, which include the department of atomic energy, ministry of forests and environment, water resources, pollution control agencies and the PMO that supervises the atomic energy activities.
These startling findings have come even as the civil society bodies and political outfits were raising concerns over high levels of uranium concentration found in the groundwater around Tummalapalle in Andhra Pradesh’s Kadapa district, where uranium is mined.
The latest findings of uranium concentration in groundwater in Telangana come at a time when the civil society bodies and opposition parties were up in the arms against the proposed uranium mining in the Nallamala forest region.
Uranium Corporation of India (UCIL), which now operates underground mines in Andhra Pradesh, plans to set up an open pit and three underground mines in Telangana with a central plant about 50km from the mine site.
“The frighteningly high uranium concentration in groundwater samples around Lambapur-Peddagattu uranium resources in Telangana were found in a survey conducted by the Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD),” a top atomic energy department official told ET, seeking anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media. The source said at least 30,000 people in the 8 km radius of Lambapur-Peddagattu region face the threat of serious health hazards and need to be relocated to safer places.
Well before the exploration and mining activities in the region, AMD found high uranium concentration in the groundwater in most of the 25 sample bore wells in Telangana. Only four sample bore wells had permissible level of uranium values, while the rest had far above the permissible levels and seven contained alarmingly high levels, calling for immediate action.
The current hydro-uranium concentration in groundwater samples near Lambapur-Peddagattu region found in certain sample bore wells was at alarmingly high levels of 2,618 parts per billion (ppb) against the permissible limit of 30ppb.
“These groundwater samples were regularly being collected from 25 identified bore wells near Lambapur-Peddagattu deposits from November last year till July this year. The details of findings with location map of sampling bore wells along with their latitude and longitude were submitted to the government agencies for immediate action,” said the official quoted earlier.
ET has a copy of the map prepared by the AMD with details of groundwater locations with high uranium values.
The uranium reserves in the two Telugu states — Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh and Nalgonda in Telangana — were found in huge quantum but these deposits are closer to the ground level.
“Hundreds of bore wells dug by the farmers and villagers in these two dry regions for drinking and agricultural purposes over the last few decades appear to have led to seeping of uranium concentration into the groundwater,” he said, adding that “the government agencies are now being urged to look into the potential dangers to thousands of people living in dozens of villages around Lambapur-Peddagattu region and to immediately initiate measures to relocate them to safer places and take actions to contain the seepage of uranium, which could even affect the Krishna River waters in the nearby Nagarjuna Sagar dam.”
A year before the formation of Telangana state in June 2013, a team of scientists at Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in Hyderabad found uranium concentration in Nalgonda region ranging from 0.6 to 521.15ppb. Their research, published by the Oxford University Press, concluded that about 43% of the groundwater samples at Peddagattu and Seripally areas of Nalgonda had uranium concentration above drinking water standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency at 30ppb.
“In Kadapa at least 70 bore wells were dug in the vicinity of ore body at different depths. Some intercepted the ore body and contaminated water,” said the atomic energy official quoted above. “In Nalgonda, the AMD samples were 25 bore wells in the radius of about 4 km of the ore body and most of them are contaminated, calling for swift action.”
“If the latest findings of AMD on high uranium concentration in groundwater is valid, then the government agencies should immediately get into action to arrest further contamination of groundwater that could potentially affect the Krishna River waters, which are now being consumed by crores of people in the capital cities of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh,” said Dr Donthi Narasimha Reddy, who did his doctorate on Nuclear Energy Policy. "People in the Nalgonda region already suffer from serious fluorosis for decades.