Uranium Contamination in Ground Water in Rajasthan

A recent news article published in the Hindu & Times of India, highlights a a study conducted by researchers at the Duke University in North Carolina, United States, and the Central Groundwater Board of India. The report raises concerns over presence of high uranium levels in their groundwater of State of Rajasthan along with 16 other north-western states including Punjab, Haryana etc.

The Problem:

Uranium levels in 75 out of 226 wells in Rajasthan and five out of 98 wells tested in Gujarat exceeded the WHO provisional health guidelines. According to WHO the safe drinking water standards are 30 micrograms of uranium per litre. As mentioned in the study India extracts more than a third of world wide groundwater resources and more than 90% of this is being used for irrigation. Long term exposure to uranium in drinking water can cause kidney deceases.

Uranium Contamination in Rajatshan
Source: The Hindu

Causes of Uranium Contamination: 

The main source of uranium contamination was “natural,” but human factors such as declining ground water table and rising nitrate pollution contributes significantly to the rise in contamination.

It is demonstrated in the paper that the combination of different factors, like aquifer rocks containing uranium (granitic rocks or sediments derived from weathering of granitic rocks), oxidizing conditions that leach out uranium from the rocks and make it soluble, and the groundwater chemistry with high bicarbonate in which uranium is attached and thus become mobile, all contribute to the high uranium in groundwater in India.

Possible solution to Uranium Contamination:

  • The first step towards solution could be first monitoring, than avoiding (using other water source) or treatment (RO desalination).
  • Including uranium in the list of contaminants monitored under the Bureau of Indian Standards’ Drinking Water Specifications.

What is State Government doing ?

Rajat Mishra, principal secretary of PHED Rajasthan said that no such contamination has been found as of yet in the drinking water of the state but they are keeping an eye on the issue and samples have been sent to their lab in Hyderabad and if something comes up they will take action.

References:

  • Mr. Vengosh and his colleagues published their peer-reviewed study on May 11 in Environmental Science & Technology Letters.
  • The Hindu: NEWS
  • Times of India: NEWS