Raqs Media Collective on Tue, 1 Jun 1999 17:53:44 +0200 (CEST)

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From:  anna george <anna@nii.res.in>
Subject: Jaduguda

I am forwarding an article that Vineeta received from Harsh Kapoor. If you
happen to be on Harsh's mailing list you may have already received it.
The following article is taken from Calcutta based
SUNDAY Magazine 4-10 April 1999


Uranium mining in Jaduguda, Bihar, is causing radiation, genetic
mutation and slow death. And there is no protection for the villagers,
nowhere to go

Such stories abound in the Adivasi villages close to UCIL's sprawling
complex in Jaduguda, south Bihar. For years, the local people took
such abnormalities for ranted. It was God's will, they told
themselves. But of late, they have begun wondering whether the mines,
the factory, and a pond - where effluents from the plant flow freely -
are responsible for their woes.

The UCIL plant in Jaduguda, hemmed in by a ring of mountains
resembling a horse-shoe, is the sole supplier of uranium for India's
nuclear power stations. And, lately, the installation has come under
the spotlight, as it is being charged with causing radiation pollution
in the region. Today, local inhabitants tend to believe that all the
ailments, deformities and debilitation that they've suffered for
decades have been caused by radioactive wastes which UCIL releases
into a 100-acre 'tailing' pond.

The Jharkhand Organisation Against Radiation (JOAR) claims that about
30,000 people living in 15 villages are exposed to radiation. JOAR has
close to 3,000 members and a strong network links the pradhans of the
affected villages.

The existing 'tailing' pond lies just 40 metres away from the village
of Dungardihi. 'Tailings' are liquid and solid wastes that emerge
after uranium ore are processed to produce 'yellow cake' - an
ingredient that goes to fuel nuclear power plants. And the tailing
pond is a place, specially designed and constructed, to hold that

According to a JOAR survey done in seven villages within a 1-km radial
area of the pond, 47 per cent of the women have reported disrupted
menstrual cycle, and 18 per cent said they suffered either
miscarriages or gave birth to stillborn babies in the last five years.
Moreover, nearly all women complained of fatigue, weakness and

The survey reveals that people in the nearby villages suffer from
ailments such as skin diseases, cancer, tuberculosis, fertility loss,
bone and brain damage, kidney damage, hypertension, disorder of the
central nervous system, congenital deformities, insomnia, nausea,
dizziness, pain in the joints and abdomen, etc.

JOAR president Ghanasyam Biruli says that the incidence of these
diseases in the area is far too high to be easily explained away. He
suspects that the waste materials released into the pond remain
radioactive and are posing a hazard to human and animal health.

Biruli says they became aware of the problem in the early Nineties and
decided to do the survey. He claims that nearly a third of the women
are having fertility problems, while 70 per cent of the people are
suffering from TB.

And the problems are not confined to humans alone. Buffaloes in the
area are showing a deformity in their tails and kendu fruits are
turning out to be seedless.

The UCIL authorities, however, deny any radiation permissible levels.
In a mixed response to SUNDAY's questionnaire, UCIL chairman and
managing director J.L. Bhasin claimed that "the radiation level in the
villages around the fenced area of the tailing pond is of the order of
the local natural background. Radiation exposure to the villagers is
within the prescribed limits."

A health unit under the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC) is there
at UCIL to monitor the workplace and personnel, says Bhasin. The unit,
according to him, also monitors the environment and the management of
wastes. "The radiation level in the surrounding area is low and
unlikely to cause any deleterious effect," he states.

But not everyone is prepared to take such assurances at face value.
While JOAR appears convinced that the people of Jaduguda have for long
been exposed to radiation hazards, the environment committee of the
Bihar Bidhan Parishad, which probed the situation for over two years
and filed its third and final report in December 1998, is sceptical of
the UCIL stand.

In its final observations the committee has made the following

= The extent of the radiation effect on areas close to the UCIL mines
needs to be extensively studied by BARC, Trombay.

= There must be foolproof methods to ensure that the existing tailing
pond, and the ones that are to be constructed in future, do not pose any
radiation hazard.

= The affected people should be rehabilitated in

= Measures should be taken to save all arable land from the effects
of radiation, and a detailed health survey should be started.

The committee has expressed shock at the lack of safety norms at the
pond site. "The people and cattle have free and unchecked access to
the area around the mines. The dumping ponds are unfenced. No proper
board for restricting entrance is there," it says.

As for the effluent, the committee has observed: "The waste material
which contains traces of radioactive materials should be taken to the
effluent treatment plant by pipes. It was noticed by the team that the
water from the dumping ground returned by open drains and by open step
down arrangement." The committee feared that this could lead to
radioactive materials seeping into the soil and causing a "long-term"

In fact, UCIL chairman Bhasin has told SUNDAY that "the treated water
free from pollutionts" is discharged in to a  nearby stream. But the
House committee probe team has detected traces of radiation-to the
tune of O.2 mr/hr-in 'flowing water exposed to the public". If
radioactive stuff Meat all being spilled into this "nearby stream',
which, in all likelihood, joins up with the Subarnarekha river system,
the effects could be worrisome. Subamarekha is one of the major rivers
flowing from Bihar to West Bengal and an important source of drinking
water for people living along its course.

Although there are no universally-agreed norms for disposal of nuclear
waste. it's generally accepted that The dumping ground should be far
from human settlements. But in Jaduguda, the tailing pond virtually
lies in people's backyards.

SUNDAY spoke to several scientists at BARC and the Saha Institute of
Nuclear Physics, Calcutta. And all of them, on condition of anonymity,
said die disposal process in Jaduguda was far from safe. "We knew from
the very beginning that this system was going to create problems. But
what can you do in the face of a government decision? " said one
scientist, formerly with BARC, Trombay.

Before JUMP (Jaduguda Uranium Mining Reject which became UCIL in
1965-67) started ruining, Font Shaba, one of India's pioneering
nuclear scientists, and Swedish engineers building the plant, had
advised JUMP to relocate the villages Dungardilii. Chatikucha and
Tilaitand, as they lay within half-a-km of the tailing pond. Despite
assurances, however, they have remained where they were, even 30 years
after the pond was Commissioned.

While the villagers living close to the mines are believed to be
suffering, the state of the miners, who go down pits 100 ft to 1,000
ft deep, is said to be equally bad. Although UCIL claims that no
effects of radiation have been seen among its workers, JOAR cites an
abnormal-high death rate of miners to back its charges. JOAR alleges
that miners inhale uranium dust and radon gas in the absence of
protective devices. And This deadly exposure, it claims, has taken a
heavy toll- 17 workers died in 1994, I4in 1995. 19in 1996 and 21 in

Guidelines of the International Committee of Radiological Protection
(ICRP) say that workers at an uranium plant must wear special plastic
clothes, But at UCIL, miners and loaders wear ordinary cotton uniforms
provided by the company. And to compound The problem, the miners carry
their uniform home once a week, where the clothes containing
radioactive uranium dust, are washed by their wives and children.

Biruli claims that once JOAR's campaign gained momentum, UCIL started
hiring contract labourers supplied by private contractors. Biruli
estimates that nearly 1000 such labourers are presently working in the
plant. If they fall ill, they are promptly replaced.

The ICRP has set 500 millirem per year as the permissible limit of
exposure to radiation. But no one knows the exposure levels of workers
at UCIL. Although each employee puts on a radiation-measuring device
every time he or she enters the plant, its readings are seldom made
known. Moreover, 'when an employee falls seriously ill, he is treated
at the UCIL hospital and his health records are retained by the
authorities. JOAR alleges that by doing so, UCIL was denying its
employees their right to information.

The issue is still an open one. In the absence of clinching data, no
one is in a position to pronounce a verdict. Veterans in the villages
close to UCIL's placid tailing ponds concede that the mines and the
plant have given them more jobs and money. But the younger lot, who
have apparently grown up with an unseen force called radiation, feels
that the industry has only brought them debility and death. And that
makes an impartial and thorough investigation imperative..

Bk. AzizurRahaman/Jaduguda with additional reporting byJayanta
Basu/Calcutta and jaduguda.

Dr.Adinarayana Gopalakrishnan on nuclear safety in India

India is a Chernobyl waiting to happen. At least, this is what
DrAdinaroyana Gopaiakrishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Energy
Regulatory Board (AERB), fears if safety norms are not adhered to and
new regulations not framed for the ten operating and four
under-construction nuclear power reactors in India.

Gopalakrishnan has criticised India's nuclear establishment for its
excessive secrecy and lack of accountability. Accidents in the recent
past expose the lackadaisical attitude.

Gopalakrishnan points out that nowhere in the world will a reactor be
operated without assessing the health of crucial locations and
components from time to time.

But the main problem, according to Gopalakrishnan, lies in the
subordination of the AERB to DAE. The supremacy of the DAE over the
AERD, he feels, has crippled the regulatory process and compromised
nuclear safety in India's nuclear plants.

Q: Is there danger to the lives of the people of Jaduguda from the
uranium mines?
A: There is some amount of radiation from the UCIL
plant which is to be expected. Few studies have shown that measured
level of radiation in other parts of the country is higher than what
it is at Jaduguda. However, at the same time, health and physical
problems associated with the people there can also be found near the
nuclear reactors in Rajasthan. Something has to be done,..

Q: Like? Aren't any tests conducted at Jaduguda at regular Intervals?
A: That's the whole point. No one has bothered to do it. The NGOs
working in the area do not have the money to purchase the instrument
which measures radiation levels. And the government is not interested
in buying it. No one is bothered...

Q: Are safety norms adhered to near the plant?
A: The rule requires that the area near the plant must be fenced off.
But the villagers often cut through the fence. The UCIL pleads
helplessness, but rules must be adhered to strictly-after all, this is
also their job. There is considerable danger from the tailings pond,
no matter what the UCIL and the DAE claims. The water in the pond
dries up in the summer, exposing fine waste particles from the mines
(which may be radioactive). The children and adults in the area often
touch this waste with bare hands, thereby exposing themselves to

Q: What do you suggest?
A: An openness in our nuclear policy-the shroud of secrecy must go.
Also, as long as the DAB holds supreme, nuclear safety will remain a
distant dream. .

Pallavi Ghosh/New Delhi

 Uranium mining in Jaduguda, Bihar, Part II

Nothing to worry
The DAE and the Uranium Corporation give their side of the story

The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) dismisses any threat to the
lives of the people of Jaduguda through radiation from the UCIL plant
in south Bihar. UCIL and the DAE also do not accept that the waste
discharged from the mines is radioactive. The DAE points out that UCIL
adheres strictly to safety norms and the waste is treated to rule out
any possibility of radiation.

Fifty per cent of the waste is backfilled in the mine itself and the
remaining low-specific activity waste is treated and retained in the
specially-designed tailing pond. The spokesperson at DAE reassures
that there is no question of the residue flowing out of the tailing
pond into the backyards of the villagers.

The Environmental Survey Laboratory of the health physics unit of BARC
has regularly measured the level of radioactivity in the area.
Simultaneous checks have also been conducted at different locations
over a radius of around 35 km taking Jaduguda as the centre. The UCIL
claims that frequent study reveals that the radiation level measured
in Jaduguda matches that of locations surrounding the area.

There is considerable concern over the quality of drinking water
available to the residents of Jaduguda. The DAE considers such fears
unfounded. The WHO limit for uranium content, claims the DAE, in
drinking water is 160 mg/cu.m and the AERB limit is 100 mg/cu.m while
the water flowing down the stream of UCIL is only 38 mg/cu.m- far
below the permitted limit. The DAE also claims that the uranium
content of the ore being low, bulk of the material processed emerges
as waste, called tailings.

The tailings, comprising gangue material and barren liquor, is
neutralised to raise the pH to 10 to precipitate the dissolved
products of uranium decay and chemical pollutants. The neutralised
tailings are then separated into coarse and fine fractions in a
hydrocyclone classifier. The coarse material is fitted back in the
mine voids and the fine fractions are pumped through a pipe line into
the tailing pond. The solids settle down and are permanently retained
in the pond. The clear liquid is filtered to the effluent-treatment
plant (ETP) where it is clarified to be re-used in mill operations.

Mine water from Jaduguda is also clarified and re-used in the mill and
water from nearby mines is brought to the ETP. These effluents are
clarified and a substantial portion is recycled to the mill and
majority of the effluents is reused for conservation of this precious
natural resource. The rest is treated chemically to remove the
dissolved radium-226 and finally with lime to remove the chemical
pollutants. Only treated water meeting the prescribed standards is
released to the local aqua- tic system of Gara-Subarnarekha rivers. A
large part of the filled-up tailing ponds is further stabilised by
growing different types of wild, non-edible vegetation to prevent
generation and dispersal of the dust.

The DAE refuses to accept the criticism of improper discharge of
effluents from the plant. They claim that the UCIL's operations are
discharged only after treatment at the ETP. The effluent quality is
regularly monitored by the health physics unit of BARC to ensure that
the quality parameters of the discharges are within those stipulated.

The DAE concedes that there may be some discharge of radioactivity
into the environment through the mining operations, but this is within
permissible limits. The UCIL management conducts regular checks on the
gamma radiation levels. Environmental thermoluminiscent dosimeters are
deployed at different locations in the vicinity of the plant to
monitor the annual gamma radiation exposure levels which are found to
vary from 770 ugy/y to 1866 ugy/y with an average of 1179 ugy/y -well
within the range of natural background radiation observed in Bihar.

The DAE officials point out that the earth's crust contains a small
amount of radioactive isotopes like uranium and thorium.. They
categorically dismiss any link between the disability and deficiency
shown in the villagers and possible radiation from the mines. They
point out that Jaduguda is an isolated tribal area with practically no
medical facility. They also claim that diseases like leprosy, TB and
related ailments are common because of acute malnutrition. Twenty-nine
cases were isolated to test the claim that there was any link between
radiation and disability.

A study conducted by the state government, UCIL and Tata Meharbai
cancer hospital concluded that the cases under review had congenital
limb anomalies, diseases due to genetic abnormalities like Thalassemia
major. Further, pigsmentosa, moderate to gross splenomegaly due to
chronic malarial infection, malnutrition, post-encephalitis and
post-head injury sequel cannot be ascribed to radiation exposure.


1.The actual uranium content of the uranium ore is a mere 0.3-0.7
percent. The remaining is waste which has to be treated to rule out the
possibility of radioactivity.

2.The waste (tailings) is treated with lime so as to neutralise its
acidity. What emerges is the daughter products containing fine (called
shines) and coarse particles.

3.Both these particles are passed through a churner called
hydrocyclone classifier. In this churner, the coarse particles
accumulate outside the container while the fine ones are deposited

4.The coarse particles go back to the mines, and the grooves created
by extracting the ore are filled with these particles.

5.The shines are pumped through a pipe into the tailing pond. In
this pond, the fine particles settle down at the bottom.

6.The overlying liquid is pumped back into the plant where it is
re-used for various plant purposes.

7.This liquid is treated time to time with lime and other chemicals
to remove pollutants.


Eight-year-old Neelu (from Tilaitand, half -a-km away from the present
tailing pond) suffers from a serious blood disorder. Unable to stand
on his feet, he walks on all fours. His father is a Class-IV employee
at UClL.

Ranjit Lohar is a UCIL miner. His three-year-old son suffers from a
blood disorder and needs blood transfusion at regular intervals.
Ranjit himself has a bone disorder: one vertebra of his spine was
never formed. He sometimes feels an acute pain in his joints and
cannot work.

In 1997, the wife of a  UCIL miner, living inside the UCIL colony of
Jaduguda, gave birth to a disabled child with severe skeletal
distortions. Though this child is still alive, his father is reluctant
to talk to the media

Seven-year-old Gandhar was born with one eye. He cannot sit or stand
on his legs. He cannot speak either. His village, Mechua, is less than
one km from the UCIL tailing pond

Tailings landing in the open tailing pond. The UCIL has constructed
these unshielded and unfenced tailing ponds in gross violation of
international safety norms

Born in Mechua, Sumi Soren is now married and has moved to a village
12 km away. She has two children. Both of them are blind

Since the UCIL authorities have not fenced off the tailing ponds,
people from nearby villages and their cattle have easy access to the
pondbeds. Most of these illiterate tribal villagers, including
children, have no knowledge of the risk of radiation in the vicinity

Tulsi Kui from Chatikucha village is a sweeper at UCIL. When she got
chest cancer, UCIL sent her to Jamshedpur for treatment. Presently,
Tulsi is not fully cured and out of a job. In the last five years, at
least 21 women in the area have contracted the disease, and some of
them have already died.

The Bhatin unit of UCIL mines has this open ventilator where, during
summer, villagers throng for the cool air. This air comes from the
uranium mines and carries uranium dust. But the ventilator is neither
fenced off nor guarded by the UCIL security

Liquid tailings flood the road, and villagers and cattle are forced to
wade through it

 Bhanja Tudu, a contract labourer at the tailing pond, just two days
before he died. As a child, he used to play in the tailing pond,
collecting stone chips from heaps of dry tailings, until a festering
wound appeared on his neck and forced him to be bed-ridden

UCIL's open trucks carry uranium ore without cover from its Narwapahar
mine to the main Jaduguda plant

The apparently clean water seeping out of the present tailing pond
returns to the UCIL complex where an Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP)
treats this water before it flows into the Subarnarekha. But, sources
say, the FTP does not work on national holidays such as on 26 January,
15 August and 2 October. The seepage of highly radioactive water,
during such times, continue unchecked

Fifteen-year-old Dunia is the son of an ex-miner from UCIL. His mother
suffered three miscarriages before giving birth to two physically and
mentally retarded children. Dunia is one of them

 At the Rakha Mines station, labourers employed by private contractors
load drums full of nuclear wastes returned from NFC, Hyderabad                       
(dumping of nuclear wastes in AP is not allowed by the state
government after it reportedly caused an unusually high number of
radiation victims in the vicinity). The labourers wear leather gloves,
which do not protect them from radioactivity

Atomic safety experts warn that water resources around the tailing
ponds are likely to be contaminated.

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