Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Growing Sunflower in Jadugoda of Jharkhand State, India can minimize radioactive pollution.

Growing Sunflower in Jadugoda of Jharkhand State, India can minimize radioactive pollution.
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi
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.
The diseases include blood in cough, ulcer, swelling of bone joints, asthma, eye problems, etc.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 contamination of soil and ground water with radionuclides poses a serious problem in areas affected by the precipitation and use of nuclear materials such as uranium, tritium, cesium, strontium, technetium and plutonium.

A need for a cost effective and environmentally safe procedure to reclaim such lands have become a main priority. Large efforts have been conducted to reclaim contaminated lands. In recent years use of plants to remove radionuclides from the soils and the water (Phytoremediation) are gaining importance.

Phytoremediation is the use of certain plants to withdrawal chemicals, compounds, and heavy metals from the soil. Knowledge of these plants, and specifically their biology, has allowed for innovative techniques to reclaim contaminated soil sites. Not all plants have the same capability to withdrawal such things as nickel, lead, cadmium, and arsenic. However, some plants can tolerate high levels of heavy metals and other toxic chemicals. These plants are referred to as hyper accumulators. The best plants used in phytoremediation are those plants that have hay crop characteristics that are tall, high yielding, fast growing, and easy to harvest.

Not only do these plants uptake the unwanted material, but such plants also limit the movement of materials within the soil, and in some cases those materials can then be extracted from the plant and reused.

With the help of plants, scientists have been able to start reclaiming the soil and water surrounding Chernobyl Russia. Scientists have found that sunflowers can remove radionuclides from the soil as well as water, when grown hydroponically. These sunflowers can reduce the amount of uranium concentrations in the water by up to 95%. The sunflowers are then harvested and the radioactive material within the plant is disposed of properly.

The tests used sunflower plants to pull radionuclides from a pond contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl accident. According to scientists, these tests demonstrate that rhizofiltration is a practical way to treat radionuclides, including uranium, cesium, and strontium found in groundwanter.
The roots of the Sunflower cultivar (Helianthus annuus L.), when submerged in water, quickly accumulate heavy metals and radionuclides.

In Jadugoda where the peoples are most affected with radiation, growing Sunflower can be seen as one of the important methods to minimize toxic metals from the water and soil.
To grow well, sunflowers need full sun. Jharkhand State receives sufficient sun rays through out the year. Seeing the favourable climatic conditions, local people and NGOs must be motivated to go for sunflower plantation in the affected areas.

We have become too set on thinking that man can do things better than nature itself. Phytoremediation proves us wrong. We have relied on our technologies and our manmade devices too much. We have become so use to this way of thinking that we have ignored some vital nature processes. Once we understand these processes and what they entail we weave ourselves more tightly into the web of life, and thus become closer to living in harmony with nature.
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