Living dangerously

people living in the villages near the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (ucil), Jaduguda, Bihar, are suffering from a large number of radiation-induced diseases, deformities, mental retardation as well as disturbances in reproductive physiology. This was revealed in a recent survey by a team led by B N Pandey of the department of zoology, Purnea College, Bihar. Pandey is working on a research project sanctioned under a programme of the Union ministry of environment and forests (mef). The study covered eight villages located at a distance of 23 km from the tailing pond where waste products of the ucil plant are dumped.

Pahari Oraon is a retired employee of the ucil and lives in Ichra village, which was included in the study. His daughter Alobati, 16, and son Duniya, 12, are suffering from musculo-skeletal abnormality as well as mental retardation. Pano Manjhi, 17, daughter of Sikim Manjhi, an employee of the ucil in the same village, is also mentally abnormal and has musculo-skeletal abnormality.

Mahabir, 12-year-old son of Mohan Kumar Das of Durku village, has thalassaemia. His mother is suffering from menstrual problems, having undergone three abortions. Hari Patra, a retired ucil employee of Ichra village, died due to thalassaemia. His son, Bhogan Murmu, 45, an employee of the ucil , died due to cancer. Ram Nath Oraon, 55, a resident of Ichra, believes that radiation has something to do with the peculiar wound in his leg. Cases of male sterility have also been seen.

It was noted during the survey that the Kendu trees near the ucil plant have seedless fruits. Villagers report that wastewater from the ucil plant is discharged into the nearby Gudra river and that plants die if irrigated with it. In recent years, cultivation of vegetables has become difficult. Large quantities of fertilisers are of little help.

Kulamara is a large village separated from the ucil by the Matigora Hill. Here, the above-mentioned abnormalities were not found. It is presumed that vegetation of the Matigora Hill protects the villagers from the effects of radiation as greenery absorbs radiation.

Residents of the area point out that ash of the slim dam of the ucil is spread all over through the air. Right next to this dam is a playground. There are complaints that the children who play here have developed a large number of genetic defects.

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