“Radiation affecting health of villagers”

P.S. Suresh Kumar

Mining of mineral sand, a cause for concern, says forum

Nagercoil: Conservation of Nature Trust here has urged the Government to extend annual medical check-up for cancer, insurance cover and provision of radiation dosimeters for the benefit of fishermen in Kanyakumari district living in the localities of ‘high-radiation’ area.

Its chairman R.S. Lal Mohan said that a recent study revealed that radiation in the coastal sand was as high as 65,000 becquerel per kg in places such as Chinnavilai and Periavilai, where sand mining was rampant. In these villages, there were 17 cancer patients and 31 mentally ill people.

Radiation in Kooduthalai, another sand mining village, was as high as 95,000 becquerel per kg.

Here beta radiation was very high; it was more powerful than alpha radiation as it could travel more distance and penetrate the skin. “It is strange that sand extraction firms that remove the radioactive sand claim that they were removing the radiation even while bringing the underground radioactive sand to the surface.”

Radioactive sand — geological sediments accumulated over thousands of years — could be found at a depth of some feet.

“Minerals are needed for the industries. But it must be ensured that affected people get proper medical treatment. The problem with cancer is it is hereditary. Once chromosomal changes are caused by radiation, the effects are irreversible.”

An independent study by Dr. Lucy Forster and her team from Cambridge University found background radiation along the Kanyakumari coast to be high. Poor fisherfolk take part in the hazardous job of carrying radioactive sand because of their poverty.

All along coast

The coastal belt of south Kerala from Chavara to Kanyakumari has a radiation level of up to 325 ream owing to presence of monazite. This and other rare metals have accumulated after getting swept by wind.

These rare metals originate from the Western Ghats and drained by rivers such as the Kodayar, the Kuzhithurai and the Valliyar.

The radiation was first noted by a German industrialist, Schomberg, in coir exported from Colachel. In those days, the coir industry was vibrant along Kanyakumari coast.

Mr. Lal Mohan has urged the Government to either ban sand mining in the coastal areas of the district or to provide security to the livelihood of fishermen.

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