July 24, 2018
Abir Ranjan Biswas speaks on Uranium Contamination in Groundwater
States along the Ganga and Brahmaputra basin are known to have high levels of arsenic contamination in groundwater. However, a recent study has found uranium contamination (above 30 ug/L, the limit suggested by WHO) in groundwater in the Northwestern states of Rajasthan, parts of Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab. This calls for a public health emergency since prolonged exposure to uranium can lead to kidney problems. Unlike arsenic and other toxic metals, the permissible limits for uranium are not listed under the Indian standards for drinking water.
Uranium is a naturally occurring element found in several types of rocks like granite. Human activities like pumping and overuse of aquifers have led to the increased dissolution of uranium. While nitrate pollution in these states has enhanced the uranium problem. Though uranium contamination in groundwater has been previously reported from the southern states, what makes the problem graver and more dangerous in the northwestern states is the absence of alternative sources of drinking water. The contaminated wells and aquifers in Rajasthan and Gujarat happen to be the only source of drinking water in most cases.
There is a need to set up monitoring systems to identify high-risk areas, explore new ways to prevent and treat uranium contamination and provide access to safe and clean drinking water to the affected populations.