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Meghalaya council to probe uranium waste leakage

A panoramic view of the Khasi Hills in Meghalaya. File photo  

: An autonomous council in Meghalaya has decided to investigate a suspected leakage from a tank reportedly containing radioactive remnants of exploratory uranium mining in 1993.

Locals had in September reported an “explosion” in a tank “storing toxic effluents” at Nongbah Jynrin in South West Khasi Hills district bordering Bangladesh.

The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) said the issue of the leakage would be taken up by its Forest Special Committee as well as its Forest and Environment Department.

“We cannot ignore the effects of radiation on the health of people. We have decided to probe the leakage from the tank that could contaminate the area irreversibly,” Macdalyn Sawkmie Mawlong, the council’s executive member in charge of the department, told journalists in Meghalaya capital Shillong on November 4.

Expressing concern about the possible contamination of land and water bodies in the area, she called for a united fight against “dangerous” uranium mining.

Following reports of toxic waste, Meghalaya-based environment economist Bremley W.B. Lyngdoh had studied the contamination level with his US-made Geiger counter, an instrument used for detecting and measuring radiation.

He had recorded ionizing radiation of 1,093 counts per minute from one spot while the radiation level fluctuated between 235 and 315 counts per minute in other areas. A count of 100 is considered a warning level.

The Atomic Minerals Division (AMD) had started its operations in Meghalaya in the 1970s and had undertaken exploratory drilling in the uranium-rich areas of South West Khasi Hills district in 1993. But protests against uranium mining led to violence against AMD officials and destruction of their instruments.

Years after the AMD stopped exploratory mining, the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) closed down its establishment in the State after not receiving lease and statutory permission for its proposed open-cast uranium mining.

The Meghalaya government in August 2016 revoked its 2009 decision granting permission to the UCIL to undertake exploratory activities on 422 hectares of land in the district.

Meghalaya has an estimated 9.22 million tonnes of high-grade uranium ore deposits.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 10:13:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/meghalaya-council-to-probe-uranium-waste-leakage/article33028937.ece

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