Monday, September 10, 2007

Radioactivity at Jadugoda in India



It is told that the population of Jharkhand is about 100 million and 26 million people live around its capital Ranchi including a circum-ference part. There is West Bengal State on the east side and Orissa State on the south side.
Jharkhand state has the long slender area called "East Singhbhum". It lies between West Bengal and Orissa. Tatanagar is a part of the area and three uranium mines, Narwapahar, Bhatin and Jadugoda, are near there. These uranium mines are managed by UCIL (Uranium Corporation of India Limited), the government enterprise of India.

The position of the central part of Jadugoda is east longitude 86-degree 20 minutes, and northlatitude 22-degree 40 minutes. It is 24km from the Tatanagar station to Jadugoda in a straight line. The area around mines is mountainous land where the India aborigines have lived.

Exposure to nuclear radiation is affecting the health of miners and villagers at Jadugoda in Singhbhum district in Jharkhand State located in Eastern India, which is India’s first uranium mining. Jadugoda, literally meaning "magic land", intrigues an outsider. The promise of magic enthralls; the mystery of the unknown attracts. But closeness reveals not innocence but an intention, dangerous and deliberate. According to different N.G.Os working among the tribal peoples of Singhbhum said the radiation may not bring sudden dramatic illness but slowly undermines the health of the people living in the surrounding villages. A health survey carried out by the State Health Department, to investigate the radiation effects, found 31 out of 712 people to be suffering from health disorders, which may be due to exposure to radiation.

The diseases include blood in cough, ulcer, swelling of bone joints, asthma, eye problems, etc.

The earliest reference to uranium mineral in India appeared in a German publication in 1860, in which Emil Stoehr recorded the occurrence of "Copper Uranite" at Lopso hill in Singhbhum. A huge tonnage of low-grade uranium ore rock is available which can yield 3000 to 4000 tonnes of uranium. At Jaduguda, the lodes are mainly confined to the conglomerates and granulated chlorite-quartz-tourmaline-magnetite rock. Workable deposits of uranium ore in this region have been proved up to 600 meters depth and the ore is being produced from this area.

Mining is done by cut and fill methods. Broken ore is fed to an underground crusher and the sized material skip hoisted to the surface by a 1033 foot vertical shaft. The geology of the mine area exhibits a zone of metamorphosed, sheared and metasomatized sediments in which uranium mineralisation has taken place within a measured area about 1000 meters in length by atleast 420 meters in depth. Indicated ore reserves at Jadugoda are estimated at 2.8 million tonnes with an average grade of about 0.08 % Uranium oxide. The production of Uranium ore at Jadugoda is reported to be 1000 tonnes per day.
In the early 1960s, the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) pitched its tents in Jaragoda, a land surrounded by forests and hills. The indigenous Santhali and Ho inhabitants called their land thus after a plant called Jarabindi, which grows here in abundance and is considered very beneficial since oil extracted from its seeds is used for healing purposes. The healing touch of Jarabindi had given way to the secrets of nuclear matters. Jaragoda had now become Jadugoda.
Uranium for the country’s nuclear programme is mined here from three underground mines. A fourth mine was inaugurated in Turamdih in Jamshedpur block in Jharkhand State. UCIL is planning to open an other uranium mine at Bagjata panchayat in Mosabani.
The sources said, besides Bagjata, UCIL has also decided to open new mining sites at Meghalaya and Andhra Pradesh where surveillance work is on.
Other than mines there are three tailing ponds; a fourth is in the offing. The contents of these dams are highly radioactive, said local sources.
According to a journalist Bela Bhatia, one widespread response of the birds and animals to the contaminated environment has been migration. Now all the Lippis (name of the bird) have gone, only Lippiguttu (name of the place) remains. So abundant were they in this region that villages were named after them.
The people in the Jadugoda area are affected not only by radiation from tailing dams but also by lack of safety at the mines. Fatigue, lack of appetite, respiratory ailments are wide spread. Increases in miscarriages, impotency, infant mortality, Down’s syndrome, skeletal deformities and different skin diseases, children with big heads, thalassemia have been reported. The incidence of tuberculosis among the miners is very high.
One women of nearby Tilaitand village says that her husband deserted her because she could not get pregnant. Her villain: uranium mining. Other tribal women says her two children were born deformed at birth and were killed soon after. "The earth here is poisoned,'' she said.
Actually, the number of deformed children could have been much more. So many others either die or are killed soon after birth,'' said one social worker.
He admits that the deformities and diseases had been there even before the UCIL began mining here in 1967 but alleges that most of the victims are families of miners and workers at the tailing ponds where nuclear waste is deposited after enriched uranium is extracted from the ore.
Even though the retirement age is 60 years, rarely does one meet a uranium miner who has retired after serving his full term, alleged local N.G.O.s.
After the uranium ore is mined and processed here, the "yellow cake'" is sent to the Nuclear Fuel Complex in Hyderabad for enrichment. The waste is then brought back to the UCIL complex for further extraction, after which the dust is dumped, into the ponds.

In the view of the uranium mining around the densely populated area, the environmental base line data should be generated and analysed periodically, to study the impact on environment in the region. Periodical analysis of water contamination due to radioactivity should be done. Perhaps the major radio pollution in water is caused by uranium ore which contains 2 to 5 ponds of uraninite per tonne.
It is incorrect to say that persons living around Jadugoda are suffering from certain diseases because of radiation, said some geologists. According to them causes may be some other toxic metals like arsenic, mercury, floride, lead or chromium. Malnutrition may also be one of the factors responsible for tuberculosis, miscarriages etc. They suggested detail chemical analysis of the groundwater and soils in and around Jadugoda.

For more information contact:
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi
Fellow Member Geological Society of India,
76 circular road Ranchi-834001
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