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Uranium in groundwater in Malwa: Japan team to assist probe

Uranium in groundwater in Malwa: Japan team to assist probe

Photo for representational purpose only. - iStock file photo



Tribune News Service

Neha Saini

Amritsar, February 18

In a collaboration between Tokyo Metropolitan University, Japan, International Advanced Research Institute (IARI) from Osaka University, Japan, a group of Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) researchers, are working on the project to find the causes of uranium poisoning and further geo-chemical probing in four Malwa districts of Punjab — Bathinda, Mansa, Ferozepur and Faridkot.

Prof Bikramjit Singh Bajwa, a physicist (with specialisation in Environmental Radioactivity, Geochemistry and Uranium distribution studies in groundwater & soil), Dr Satvir Singh (assistant professor, CT University, Ludhiana with specialisation in Environmental Radioactivity and Chemical Engineering) and Dr Inderpreet Kaur, department of Chemistry, GNDU, are part of the research group.

In 2012, the researchers from Guru Nanak Dev University, led by Prof Bikramjit Singh Bajwa, began their scientific investigation and probe into the presence of Uranium in the groundwater in Bathinda, Mansa, Ferozpur and Faridkot after much publicity on the issue. The initial probe was funded by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai. Over the last decade, the group of researchers found in their analysis that average uranium contents were found to be 88 µg L-1 and 61 µg L-1, with 74% and 61% samples in the Bathinda and Faridkot, respectively, being above the WHO accepted limit of 30 µg L-1 in groundwater. Similarly, several areas in Mansa and Ferozepur, too, had uranium concentration in groundwater higher than the permissible limit of WHO. In 2019, Dr Bajwa also conducted studies in seven northeastern districts (Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Amritsar and Tarn Taran), finding no uranium poisoning in the groundwater here.

Prof Bikramjit said that while most researchers concluded geological causes as reason for the uranium contamination, it is not the only reason. ‘The data compiled by our research team over ten years, found that the groundwater in the four SW districts not only had uranium presence but also had high TDS, salinity and other heavy metals, while the soil did not have presence of any of these. Also, the region has alluvial soil, with varied proportions of sand, silt, and clay but it doesn’t really prove any specific geo-chemical reason for presence of uranium. Also, few years ago, the claim that the concentrations of uranium could be attributed to the use of uranium in war in Afghanistan was refuted by scientists. So, we invited team of scientists from Japan to collaborate on the project with us,” he said. Dr Bajwa said that the study is important as it might conclude, what is causing the uranium poisoning.

In their study, GNDU researchers revealed the contribution of both geogenic (weathering of rocks) and anthropogenic sources (overuse of agrochemicals in agricultural lands and release of inefficiently treated industrial effluents) for deteriorating the groundwater quality.

MALWA THE HOTSPOT

  • After Uranium poisoning in Malwa region of Punjab gained widespread attention after South African metal toxicologist Carin Smit found traces of it in DNA of children from these region, in 2012, several studies were initiated into examining groundwater and soil content in the region, now infamous as ‘cancer belt’
  • In Bathinda and Faridkot, average uranium contents were found to be 88 µg L-1 and 61 µg L-1, with 74% and 61% samples in the two areas, respectively, being above the WHO limit of 30 µg L-1 in groundwater. Most health concern in the study area were the elevated concentrations of arsenic and mercury with average values of 176 µg L-1 and 174 µg L-1, respectively, in Bathinda, and 272 µg L-1 and 79 µg L-1, respectively, in Faridkot.

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The Tribune News Service brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune News Service for a wide-ranging coverage of events as they unfold, with perspective and clarity.

#Environment #Groundwater #Guru Nanak Dev University GNDU #Japan #Malwa #Pollution


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