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Committee of scientists to research uranium, heavy metals in Punjab’s groundwater

  • Posted By
    10Pointer
  • Categories
    Environment
  • Published
    19th Nov, 2020

Context

  • A committee has been set up to provide a solution to the contamination of groundwater of Punjab’s Malwa region by heavy metals and uranium.

The contamination

  • The uranium contamination has been found in groundwater from aquifers across 16 states in India such as Rajasthan.
  • Uranium is a naturally occurring element found in several types of rocks, especially granite.
  • When the conditions are right, uranium from the rocks can leach into water, where it dissolves more if the solvent contains oxidising compounds.
  • In those parts of India where a lot of uranium occurs naturally in the rocks, a combination of these factors can increase its level in the groundwater.

What is its permissible limit?

  • The WHO has set a provisional safe drinking water standard of 30 micrograms of uranium per litre for India.
  • Uranium is not yet included in the list of contaminants monitored under the Bureau of Indian Standards’ Drinking Water Specifications.

What are health Impacts?

  • Exposure to uranium in drinking water is linked to chronic kidney disease.
  • Inhaled insoluble uranium compounds can also damage the respiratory tract.

What are the causes of Uranium contamination?

  • The cause of contamination of soil and groundwater in the Malwa region of Punjab could be the fly ash from coal burnt at thermal power plants, which contains high levels of uranium.
  • Over-pumping of the aquifers’ groundwater.
  • Reduced water levels.
  • Uranium is contained in an aquifer’s rocks and the water-rock interactions may cause the uranium to be extracted from these rocks.
  • The oxidation conditions may enhance the extracted uranium’s solubility in water.
  • The interaction of the extracted uranium with other chemicals such as bicarbonate.
  • Over-exploitation of groundwater for agricultural irrigation.
  • Anthropogenic factors

How it can be minimized?

  • Nanotechnology-based techniques.