Patiala: Ground water contamination in the Malwa region of Punjab is alarming and magnitude of problem demands immediate measures on war footing. Reports emanating from the reliable source confirm beyond doubt that the ground water contamination in this region, is not only by general pollutants but also contaminated with heavy metals and radioactive uranium in frightening proportions.
A recent study conducted by a Global consultancy Mott Macdonald Limited, covering six districts- Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Sangrur, Barnala and Moga found that in Moga District, a horrible 98 per cent of villages (83 of the 85 villages) had contaminated ground water. Out of this 44 villages are grossly affected with the presence of uranium and 24 of them had heavy metal in the ground water. Situation is no better, almost same in Barnala, Bhatinda, Mansa and even Mukatsar. Good that Punjab Government has decided to supply purified canal water to worst affected villages in Moga and Barnala District under the pilot project casting Rs. 300 crore, funded by the World Bank but it would be more appropriate to seek the services of BARK to identify the magnitude of the problem in micro details. Earlier study conducted by BARK (Bhawa Atomic Research center) Bombay, found the highest presence of uranium i.e. 684 PPB (Parts per Billion) in Bhatinda District. Under the constitution of India all tests related to Radio Active material is carried by BARC under the aegis of Government of India, Department of Atomic energy. BARC being a premier multi-disciplinary Nuclear Research Center of India is certainly better equipped in terms of infrastructure for advanced research with expertise covering the entire spectrum of Nuclear Science and related areas.
While appreciating the pilot project of the Punjab Government to supply purified canal water to worst affected villages by uranium contaminated ground water in Moga and Barnala District, but the efforts seem to be too diminutive compare to the magnitude of gigantic problem in whole of Malwa region. I would demand from the Chief Minister Punjab that similar feasibility study of the remaining districts in Malwa region must be conducted immediately by the same Global Consultancy Mott Macdonald Limited.
Meanwhile the Punjab Government should also invoke immediately the services of Ms Harsimrat kaur Badal. Hon’ble Minister in the Union cabinet to engage BARC (Bhabha Atomic Energy Center) in the matter, in order to conduct the comprehensive study in the entire Punjab , with reference to uranium contamination of ground water and more specifically its causes, prevention and cure. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India should also be kept in the active role in order to put the measures in place to battle the massive health hazards caused to the people because of the contaminated ground water in Punjab.
(Bir Devinder Singh is former Deputy Speaker, Punjab)