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Uranium contamination in the groundwater

  May 07, 2020

Uranium contamination in the groundwater

The pollution of Groundwater by Uranium in India is one of the causes of worry. What is the situation of Groundwater pollution by uranium in India? Explain with giving examples.

According to the findings published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, there is uranium contamination in groundwater in the aquifers across 16 states in India.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has set a provisional safe drinking water standard of 30 micrograms of uranium per litre for India, but many of the states have uranium much above the prescribed the limit.

According to the finding-

  1. Groundwater pollution by uranium is prevalent in 16 states of India.
  2. Nearly a third of all water wells tested in one state, Rajasthan, contained uranium levels that exceed the World Health Organization safer limit. 
  3. Many of India’s aquifers are composed of clay, silt and gravel carried down from Himalayan weathering by streams or uranium-rich granitic rocks. When over-pumping of these aquifers’ groundwater occurs and their water levels decline, it induces oxidation conditions that, in turn, enhance uranium enrichment in the shallow groundwater that remains. 
  4. While the primary source of uranium is geogenic (naturally occurring), anthropogenic (human-caused) factors such as groundwater table decline and nitrate pollution may further enhance uranium mobilization. Human activities, especially the over-exploitation of groundwater for agricultural irrigation, may contribute to the problem.

Why uranium contamination is dangerous?

  1. Exposure to uranium may lead to numerous adverse health impacts including bone toxicity and impaired renal function.
  2. Groundwater is a primary source of drinking water and irrigation. NITI Aayog- Groundwater is one of the most important water sources in India accounting for 63% of all irrigation water and over 80% of the rural and urban domestic water supplies.
  3. The groundwater level on an average is declining at a rate of 300m/year in India(NASA). The more decline, more will be uranium contamination.

A Special case of Bihar

According to University of Manchester, UK and Mahavir Cancer Institute and Research Centre have found uranium contaminating the groundwater in 10 districts of Bihar.

  1. Uranium concentrations are elevated mostly in the North West-South East band along and to the east of Gandak river and running south of the Ganga river towards Jharkhand, particularly in Gopalganj Siwan, Saran, Patna, Nalanda and Nawada districts.
  2. The source of the uranium contamination is still unknown, that creates more danger.

How the government of India is dealing with the Problem?

Though there is no direct attack to decrease uranium, but the focus on the rejuvenation of groundwater has gained strength.

  1. To Decrease demand of Groundwater- Precision agriculture, Climate smart and agro-climatic competent agricultural practices are being encouraged through programme like PM- Krishi Sinchai Yojana.
  2. To Provide uranium free drinking water- JAL Jeevan mission with a target to reach every village.
  3. Scientific analysis – by using remote sensing and ground water atlas with annual composite water Index.