The Andhra Pradesh government has ordered a full-fledged inquiry into a number of complaints about groundwater pollution caused by the uranium mining and processing project of the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) at Tummalapalle in Vemula mandal of Kadapa district.
Chief Minister Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy reviewed the situation on Friday and directed the officers to look into the complaints. The government asked the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) to set up a committee of experts which would visit the tailings pond where the wastage from the UCIL facility is stored.
The committee would comprise of scientists and senior officials of the National Geophysical Research Institute, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, the Mines and Geology, Groundwater and Agriculture Departments of the State government and the IIT-Tirupati as members. It will submit a report in 10 days.
Ever since uranium was discovered at this remote village and the mining of ore and processing began, residents of six to seven villages around the site have been complaining of contamination of groundwater. There were reports of people falling ill and damage to crops. The constitution of the committee came after Kadapa MP Y.S. Avinash Reddy and K. Babu Rao, a former scientist of the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, represented the problem.
The APPCB says the UCIL was not complying with the APPCB’s norms for protecting the tailing pond from seepage. The APPCB asked the UCIL to line the pond with polyethylene layer, but it was not done. The UCIL maintained that it was adhering to the norms suggested by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and that it need not consult the APPCB.
After serving a show-cuase notice on the UCIL in the first week of August, the APPCB has decided to hold a hearing on September 5 of complaints of groundwater contamination. APPCB Chairman B.S.S. Prasad told journalists that there were apprehensions among the people living in the vicinity of the project site over the release of slurry into the tailing pond, and the plan to expand it.