The Tailing Dams of Jadugoda: Storm, radioactive dust and never ending stories of negligence
By : Vikash Kumar
Accoring to Members of Jharkhandi Organization against Radiation , On 20th, 21st and 22nd May, 2017 evening , at 3.50 pm, 4.00 pm, and 4.30 pm, the strong winds which accompanied the heavy storm lead the uranium waste of the 3rd Tailing Dam fall down near the farm and the drain which resulted in the toxicity and radioactivity of the uranium tailing dust spread towards the vast mass of Land. This has caused the Flora- Fauna and the population come under the influence of the Radiation. Around 500 houses have already being affected by this.
The video of the storm was captured by one of the community member.
Following the Incident , On Friday, 9th May, I went to the Villages in Jadugoda i.e Chatikotcha and Tilaitand to have the ground observation of the impact of the storm on the community. These two villages are located in the road adjacent to the Hata-Jadugoda Road. In fact, chatikotcha village is only 50 metres far from the Dam.
In the UCIL hospital , in the women’s Ward, There were very few patients. A person from the community accompanied me to the Hospital. He showed me the person who was admitted to the hospital following the accident. She was a young women probably in her 20s . She was lying in the bed. The bed was in the corner of the ward. Her husband was sitting in a chair next to her. Suman told “ On the 20th May, In the mid night , there was a strong wind which accompanied the storm, the dust particles entered the house. The next day I started vomiting. I went to the my uncle who is a exorcist but nothing happened. I got admitted two days back in the hospital “. Her husband tells me that “ She is three months pregnant . I fear that my child doesn’t get affected “. He says it in a voice where he looks disturbed.
After my visit to the hospital, I made my way to Tilaitand. We stopped near a small shop . Two people were standing and having a chat. We halted to have a conversation with them. We started to inquire about the incident. There were two middle aged people. Initially they were hesistant to talk to us but we could build a rapport after some time. One of the person told “ This incident has severely affected my livelihood. I have a small shop which sells daily everyday items to run my livelihood. But this storm which consecutively for three days affected my daily life as I had to close the shop in the noon. This used to leave the dust all over, there was no business and the next day , we had to survive just on some wheat flour item. This has also occured too often in the summers. I have to take quarterly loan for my child’s education. How would I pay that “ ?. His name is kept anonymous here.
” Whenever there is a storm , There is a black cloud all around us. We are not able to see the tailing dam which is right opposite to our houses . I don’t know if it is some bacteria or something but whenever there is strong wind, it gives irritation to the eyes ” . A person from Tilaitand village told on the condition that his name would be anonymous
Uranium tailings are a waste byproduct (tailings) of uranium mining. In mining, raw uranium ore is brought to the surface and crushed into a fine sand. The valuable uranium-bearing minerals are then removed via heap leaching with the help of acids or bases, and the remaining radioactive sludge, known as “uranium tailings”, is being stored in the huge impoundments.
Just to go back. This incident is linked to many other such accidents which have taken place earlier. After the Late 90s, 4 Major accidents which took place near the villages have being documented by JOAR. Only after the struggle by JOAR, the authority took cognizance.
It was back in 8-12 april 2013 in Tata Nagar, that the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) conducted a high level seminar cum training inviting 200 delegates from 25 countries (according to UCIL), in collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). With all the fanfare, this much hyped seminar was titled “Uranium Exploration Strategy, Mining and Processing Techniques” in India and took place in one of a posh hotel in Tatanagar.
Interestingly JOAR members were not allowed to attend the seminar and were asked to vacate the hotel premises. On the last day all the delegates were taken to the Jadugoda mines and according to the media reports, the honorary delegates were overwhelmed by the exemplary work of UCIL and praised the operations . Throughout the seminar, it ran a successful public relationship campaign that uranium mining is being done maintaining all the safety standards and there is no risk of radiation
According to a study done by a team from Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD), there has been a significant rise in the instance of congenital deformities among infants, increased sterility; and increased numbers of deaths due to cancer. Reduced life expectancy among people living near the mines was also documented, 68.33 per cent people are dying before the age of 62. Another study done by professors of Kyoto University, Japan reveals high uranium contamination in the areas around the tailing pond and along the stream that carries the tailing waste to the local river, Subernarekha. It also found high level of radiation on roads through which trucks carry uranium ore to the mill in Jadugoda.
The 10-minutes short documentary based on a study conducted by the Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD Patna chapter) in and around villages of Jadugoda uranium mine with the help of JOAR. IDPD is Indian chapter of Germany / US -based International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW- Noble Peace prize winner Organization). This video shows the plight and harass realities of the health conditions of people who lives near the Jadugoda mine, mill and tailing dam.
This is shameful that even after its inception , U.C.I.L Has not taken any serious and steps towards the safety of the environment and flora and fauna and has neither provided any information to the local community. The result is that in the dry tailings of the first and second tailing pond , the children used to play football till the late 90s but after the intervention by JOAR, they stopped. The uranium ore and tailing being carried out from the other mines falls here. Sometimes the vehicle carrying the uranium ore meets with an accident, they dump the waste here and flee away. Even till date, during the rainy season millions of untreated water from tailing dam is dumped in the Swaranrekha river which finally goes into the Bay of Bengal.
A.E.R.B directed rules and regulations regarding the maintenance of tailing dam is openly flouted . Tailing pond located in Chatikotcha has completely filled. U.C.I.L and D.A.E has till now committed unlimited crimes. The sad part is both the institutions have unlimited powers. Rather than answering the questions, anyone who raises the voice is being given a bad name to tarnish the name of the organization. After spending crore of rupees, it has brought eminent experts behind closed rooms in conference who say uranium mining and uranium waste maintenance is correct.
After the storm Incident, a meeting took place between UCIL and JOAR members , demands were put up by JOAR members but the next day , there was rainfall and all the evidence regarding the incidence was lost. U.C.I.L took advantage of this and JOAR protested. As Usual , U.C.I.L got away but the toxic and radioactive particles are accumulated in the ground, in the air, in the soil , in ground water, surface water which finally go to the Subarnrekha river and the urgent need to investigate the damage already done as this has serious repercussions on the health of the community and environment . These two demands were submitted by JOAR :
1. The Tailing pond should be immediately covered with the soil and rules regarding the maintenance of the Uranium tailing should be immediately followed.
2. Find out the How Far the dry uranium powder has spread near the areas of Tilaitand, chatikotcha and the dangerous pollution it has caused.
JOAR (Jharkhandi Organisation against Radiation, Jadugoda)
Tilaitand, Jadugoda Jharkhand (India )
Update – U.C.I.L has agreed to prevent the tailing dust issues . Now they have given tender to sprinkle water to the dried toxic and radioactive tailing in the tailing dam number 3 and cover it with a layer of soil so that the tailing does not fly. But still the demand to investigate the houses in the village where this radioactive and toxic dust has already entered and measurement of radiation of the area is not met . Nobody has the slight idea whether it is still safe for human habitation . As in the Past, U.C.I.L wants to cover up the issue and is fearing to take up this demand which is a much bigger concern.
J.O.A.R is appealing to the civil society to put pressure on the mighty Department of Atomic Energy and U.C.I.L for an independent investigation of the area on an urgent basis.
The author is a Phd Research Scholar in the Department of Social Work, University of Delhi.
The article has been published from Adobe Spark and can be accessed here.
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