HYDERABAD: Is rehabilitating villagers of the seven affected villages around Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) mine and tailing pond in Kadapa district a solution to the ongoing struggle between UCIL and the surrounding villages? Though some of the locals and public representatives opine that they could be shifted if they are compensated, scientists and activists say that shifting is not a solution.

Increase in uranium and sodium levels in groundwater is making water unfit for drinking and irrigation. Analysis of documents of UCIL, Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) and other agencies revealed that the baseline concentrations in Mabbuchintalapalle hand pump was 1.3 to 7 parts per billion (ppb) in 2010, but has now increased to 4,000 ppb from 690 ppb.

Kadapa MP YS Avinash Reddy in his letter to UCIL CMD C K Asnani in 2018 said that the UCIL should purchase all the houses and lands of the surrounding villages with the villagers’ consent and rehabilitate them. “Waste from the tailing pond has percolated into the ground. As a result, water in the borewells on agricultural lands has been contaminated. Due to this, the crops are not giving a good yield, and, in some cases, there is no yield at all. The UCIL management has to take responsibility for the loss,” he said. He added that samples from the borewell from several villages were collected and sent to the Centre for Materials for Electronics Technology (C-MET) for examination, and that the C-MET report had shown uranium levels of 4,000 ppb.

According to the APPCB report, the hand pump at Mabbuchintapalli had uranium concentrations ranging from 1.3 ppb to 7 ppb in 2010. In agricultural borewells between Kotrall and Mabbuchintalapalli, the uranium concentration was reported to be around 0.43 to 3.1 ppb in 2010. The concentration of uranium in the borewells in the surrounding villages is quite high, ranging from 690 ppb to 4,000 ppb against the permissible limit of 60 ppb. The reason for the increase is because the tailing ponds have not been lined properly and the borewells were not in the right location.

“I planted banana trees on 2.7 acres of land eight months ago, but the trees have not yielded anything. The groundwater contamination became serious in 2017,” G Someshwar Reddy of Mabbuchintalapalle said.

S Srinivas, a resident of K K Kottla added, “We took the issue to the MP’s notice and were assured of compensation for crop loss. Doctors also visited the affected villages and ambulances were also provided. Although it is three months now, none of the promises have been met. We want to be shifted to another place.”

Meanwhile, an employee of UCIL, Ramanjeyulu, said that around 1,000 people have been employed full-time and on temporary basis at mines. “Our lives and land are in danger. We have been depending on the land but it is getting polluted. This land is more important to us than our job,” he said.

Retired scientist Babu Rao told TOI, “The prime duty of the pollution control board is to implement water, air and environment protection acts. There is enough evidence to show that there is no lining. And the conditions that have been laid down in the consent for operations form are not followed by UCIL. As much as 50 lakh tonnes of waste is already there. Seepage is resulting in groundwater pollution. Moving people out of these villages is not a solution. The problem can spread to other areas. Regulation is important. The UCIL hasn’t compensated many of them and I don’t think that the displaced will receive the compensation. Why should people leave their old residences,” he said.

Courtesy times Of India…