Groundwater in 12 Indian states found to be contaminated with uranium

Punjab is the worst-affected state with Haryana being the second 

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 19 January 2023

The concentration of uranium in India’s groundwater has reached an alarming level, according to the new state of groundwater report released by the Central Groundwater Board. According to the report, 12 Indian states have uranium levels beyond permissible limits in their groundwater.

The report titled Groundwater yearbook 2021-2022 reveals that uranium concentrations in the country’s shallow groundwater range from 0-532 parts per billion (ppb). 30ppb is the safe level prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Punjab is the worst-affected state with nearly 29 per cent of wells found to have uranium concentration of more than 30 ppb with Haryana being the second with 14 per cent in terms of uranium prevalence in groundwater.

Uranium concentration is within safe limits in 13 states and none of the samples collected from Kerala had its presence. Uranium is a nephrotoxic element and can have an adverse impact at very high concentrations.

This means that people dependent on groundwater containing the element are at a higher risk of impaired renal function, bone toxicity and kidney disease.

The new study shows about three in every 10 wells tested in Punjab, are contaminated with uranium, breaching 96 of the 329 wells in terms of the 30ppm safe mark. The concentration of the element was also the highest in the state, with 532 ppb, about 17.7 times more than the safe limit prescribed by WHO.

Groundwater in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi was also found to have a toxic concentration of uranium.

Geogenic processes are responsible for uranium contamination. ‘Geogenic’ refers to naturally occurring elevated concentrations of certain elements in groundwater.

It is also stated that overexploitation of groundwater can also be a major reason for it. Another study in 2021 by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and Homi Bhabha National Institute also observed overexploitation of groundwater had been observed in all types of aquifers in the country.

This assessment of uranium contamination in groundwater across India highlights the need for an urgent response such as the reverse osmosis (RO) based technologies used in water purification systems to remove uranium.

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