No investigation into Jharkand radioactive waste accident yet

Published: Wednesday 28 February 2007

a month-and-a-half after a pipeline carrying radioactive waste burst in Jharkhand's East Singhbhum district, the government is yet to investigate into its cause and impact. On December 24, 2006, a pipeline from Uranium Company of India Limited's (ucil) uranium mill to a storage dam had burst discharging highly toxic waste in a creek in Dungridih, a village near Jaduguda.

Local watchdog groups say toxic sludge spewed into the creek for nine hours before the flow was stemmed. ucil does not have an alarm mechanism in case of such disasters. Thus, it was local villagers who alerted the company.

Though ucil replaced the pipe and removed the sludge from the creek soon after the incident, environmentalists claim that it isn't enough. The spill, they say, can have a serious impact on the health and environment of communities living downstream.

The radioactive sludge along the surface of the creek killed scores of fish, frogs, and other riparian life, alleges the Jharkhandi Organisation Against Radiation (joar), which has long been demanding a disaster recovery and remediation plan for the area.

Dungridih is mostly inhabited by displaced tribal families whose lands were acquired by ucil to construct two storage dams, also known as tailing ponds that store radioactive wastes produced by ucil mills. Radioactive substances left after uranium extraction are extremely hazardous and can cause cancer and mental retardation.

However, the state pollution control board (pcb) says the incident was being blown out of proportion. Jamshedpur regional pcb officer Manikant Prasad says, "No harm was done."

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