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Underground water in Varanasi radioactive?

By Indukant Dixit in Varanasi
July 13, 2008 16:35 IST
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In an alarming development, a group of scientists has revealed that underground water in Varanasi and adjoining areas in Uttar Pradesh is contaminated with Uranium but the Centre and the state government are unaware of the fact.

The study conducted by G C Chowdhary, former professor at the Geology Department of Banaras Hindu University and S K Agarwal, also a professor of Geology, has shown that the drinking water in the University premises some other places in the city contains radioactive Uranium more than the recommended limit.

Samples for the study were collected from 11 tubewells tapping deep aquifers (more than 100 meters deep).

The Uranium content varied from 2 to 11 ppb (parts per billion) while the permissible limit is only 1.5 ppb.

Chowdhary said the underground water also contains heavy metals such as Chromium, Manganese, Nickel, Ferrous, Copper, Zinc and Lead.

He said they had also published their first research paper in this regard in the Hydrology Journal of Indian Association of Hydrology in 1990s, clearly predicting health hazardous of water contaminated with these elements beyond the permissible limit.

Member Secretary of the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board, CS Bhatt, told PTI on phone that he had not come across any report, which suggests that the underground water in Varanasi is contaminated with any sort of radioactive element.

There is no facility with the board to investigate any such occurrences even if it comes to its knowledge, he said.

The UPPCB asserted that the underground water in India was generally pure and potable to a great extent as pollution of the underground water is very high.

On the other hand, the published research paper of Prof Chowdhary categorically says that the Bari Gaibi and the Vridhakal wells in the central Varanasi city have Uranium and Bicarbonate contents.

Experts say that in the absence of any anthropogenic activity in the nearby area the probable source of the trace elements cannot be the waste effluents.

Instead the sediments already deposited by the river Ganga in its flood plain, which are known to contain heavy metals, may be the source.

Health experts warned that if these contaminations are not sorted out, it may lead to disease akin to Parkinsons disease and also involve psychic and neurological disorders.

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Indukant Dixit in Varanasi
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