The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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U-waste heat raises a stink
- UCIL chairman ducks green queries

Jamshedpur/Ranchi, April 30: Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) chairman R. Gupta finds himself in the eye of a storm after allegedly “scoffing” at the concept of public hearing and “laughing” at the possibility of health disorders among people around uranium mines.

Gupta allegedly walked out of a workshop at the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi after declaring, “poverty is the biggest polluter.”

Participants from Jharkhand are upset at Gupta’s refusal to answer questions related to health problems faced by people in and around Jadugoda, near here.

“If UCIL is clean, why did Gupta refuse to take questions from us,” wondered social activist Xavier Dias. Although Dias himself did not attend the event, he has received feedback by email from his friends who did.

Pointing out that UCIL is about to start three new uranium mines around Jamshedpur, Dias wondered why Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB) has not conducted any study at Jadugoda so far and do a reality check.

PCB sources confirmed that it has not yet carried out any pollution related surveys at UCIL. The state pollution control board, they claimed, has neither the mandate nor the equipment to conduct any such study.

“UCIL is under the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and is controlled directly by the PMO. The study, they suggested, can be carried out by the Central Pollution Control Board, which can verify whether the complaints of health hazards posed by radioactive waste are correct.

The Turamdih Visthapit Samiti, meanwhile, said it would strongly protest the UCIL chairman’s remarks. Secretary of the samiti, Demka Soy, stated that a delegation would be calling on the governor to demand an exhaustive health survey at Jadugoda and adjoining areas. A memorandum too would be handed over to the governor to protest Gupta’s remarks.

“UCIL officials often make similar statements that pollution in the area is due to poverty. But this is not true. The radioactive wastes discharged by the UCIL is a serious concern for health hazards. There are several villages within the radius of 5 km from UCIL where one can find glaring examples of deformaties, specially among children,” claimed Pandu Purty, a senior functionary of Jharkhand Organisation Against Radiation.

According to Purty, the threat of radiation is also likely to affect the people of the steel city as UCIL is coming up with a processing plant and a tailing pond (for dumping radioactive wastes) at Turamdih under Sundernagar panchayat, about 5 km from the Tatanagar railway station.

But spokesperson and company secretary of UCIL, P.V. Dubey told The Telegraph that radiation level at Jadugoda is significantly low.

“As compared to radiation which is about 20-21 per cent in countries like Canada, it is about 0.01 per cent here,” he claimed.

He also pointed out that a high-level health survey was conducted in the area during 2000-01 and had given a clean chit to the public sector undertaking. The survey team, he recalled, comprised scientists and doctors from BARC, UCIL, Tata Main Hospital and the state government.

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