Hyderabad: Researchers assessing the pre-mining contamination of the environment at Nalgonda have found high levels of Uranium contamination in the groundwater and fair levels of gamma radiation, which will increase drastically once mining commences.
About 41 per cent of the groundwater samples collected from sample sites in Nalgonda were found to have contamination levels higher than permitted. Scientists say the Krishna river water and Nagarjunasagar will not be affected by the mining activity, although activists vehemently dispute it.
Researchers from the Centre for Environment at JNTU, Nuclear Fuel Complex and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) had analysed sample sites in mineralised zones of Nalgonda. About 11 million tonnes of Uranium is proposed to be mined from the district by the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL).
Levels of contamination in the air, water and soil were analysed and Radon concentrations and gamma radiation in the mineralised zones were found to be marginally high but not over the permissible limits. Radiation levels were classified as elevated.
However, groundwater remains a concern as 41 per cent of the analysed samples showed high levels of Uranium contamination. These would go up once mining commenced.
Dr T. Raghavendra, one of the researchers from JNTU, said, “Radiation levels are below permissible limits only for now. But once mining progresses, it will definitely have an impact. They will have to explain how they will control the radiation levels.”
There have been proposals for Uranium mining in Nalgonda for more than a decade but the project has faced extreme opposition from the local public and environmentalists. UCIL had also held public hearings for the project.
Meanwhile, activists say that mining in the region will also adversely affect Krishna River water and Nagarjuna Sagar. G Srinivas, an activist with Samata, said, “Definitely there will be an impact on Krishna River. In their studies they select sites, which will show no impact. But the reality is hidden.”
Dr Raghavendra, meanwhile, said there would be no impact on Krishna River in case of mining. “The river is upstream from the mining site so it shouldn’t have any impact,” he said. However, one of the sites that scientists analysed, Peddagattu, is adjacent to Nagarjuna Sagar. Dr Raghavendra, however, said the town was at a height of 324 metres so it would not be affected. Activists, however, are not convinced.