The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Floral cover against radiation threat

Ranchi, Nov. 2: Cultivation of sunflowers in Jadugora region can save the environment as well as villagers from getting affected by uranium radiation, a Jharkhand-based environmentalist has claimed today.

“The sunflowers reduce radioactive contamination of soil and groundwater by absorbing the heavy metal particles present in them. The metal particles absorbed by the root of the plant remain intact in the tissues of the plant without effecting its health,” said Nitish Priyadarshi, the environmentalist. The plants are then carefully disposed to get rid the radioactive particles, he added.

He said several other plants also absorb heavy metals, but sunflower has been found to be the best of them all.

The medical practitioners, researchers, and social activists have been raising their voice against the health hazards caused by uranium mining in Jadugora. They have been stressing that the water of the region was fast becoming unsafe for use, though the UCIL has continuously refuted such complaints.

“The effectiveness of sunflower-based method has been tested in USA and Russia. In fact, with the help of plants, scientists have been able to start reclaiming the soil and water surrounding Chernobyl, the notorious nuclear disaster site in Ukraine where a blast in a nuclear power plant in 1986 exposed the population around the city to radioactive emissions,” said Priyadarshi. The sunflowers were then harvested and the radioactive metal accumulated in the plants was disposed of properly. He said researches on use of plants to remove heavy metals from the soils and the water, popularly known as phytoremediation, were gaining momentum.

Though Priyadarshi claimed that the method was scientifically established and was also under practice in some countries, officials of UCIL were unaware of the technique. “We have not heard of such a concept where sunflowers can reduce radiation threat. However, if this method is scientifically proved and established, we certainly would give a thought to it,” said AK Sarangi, chief superintendent, strategic planning, UCIL.

Priyadarshi also said that several plants, which grow very quickly, act as good absorbents of heavy metals from soil and groundwater. “During a recent study conducted jointly by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, it was found that a local plant called “thethar” was quite effective in phytoremediation,” said Priyadarshi.

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