People of Odisha distraught over mining residue Monazite polluting water, claiming lives

Pinning the blame on Indian Rare Earths Limits for contaminating water in the areas, people have called for a thorough investigation to find the cause of widespread kidney diseases in the region.

Published: 09th September 2019 09:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th September 2019 09:51 AM   |  A+A-

SCCL, coal, coal mining

Picture for representational purpose (File Photo |EPS)

By Express News Service

BERHAMPUR: With more than 60 people dying and hundreds battling kidney disease across many villages under Chhatrapur block in the last three years, mining of heavy minerals by the Odisha Sands Complex (OSCOM) has been brought to question once again.

Pinning the blame on the unit of Indian Rare Earths Limits (IREL) for contaminating water in the areas, the people have called for a thorough investigation to find the cause of the high incidence of kidney disease in the region.

They alleged that the toxic residue left after processing minerals like Monazite in the complex has seeped in the earth and contaminated the groundwater used by people for drinking.

The situation is turning from bad to worse, they stated. Alleging apathy of authorities concerned towards their plight, the villagers said the district administration is yet to implement safe drinking water project in the area.

Since most of these patients are poor, they have become penniless after spending a fortune on the treatment of the disease.

Further, with fear of consuming water from the local sources, the affected villagers are buying packaged drinking water with great economic burden.

Social scientists Bhagaban Sahu and Sudhanshu Pati said even as the processing of beach sand containing Monazite has been banned in Australia, China and Europe, exploration of the mineral continues in the eastern coast of India.

They pressed for a multi-sectoral scientific and medical study and demanded that data of patients suffering from cancer and other serious diseases in the area should be made public to assess the gravity of the situation.

Monazite, a reddish-brown phosphate mineral, contains rare-earth elements like Thorium, Uranium and Lanthanum. The mineral’s crystallised form is found abundantly on sandy beaches. Odisha has the third-highest concentration of Monazite after Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

The demand for Monazite surged in international markets with the rise in demand for Thorium and Uranium. Rare-earth minerals like Monazite are used in electronic gadgets, tank armour and even smart bombs.

Chhatrapur MLA Subash Behera said a State-level team of health experts has visited the affected areas. But so far no concrete reason for the spread of the kidney disease has been ascertained.

He said around 30 residents of Kalipalli village are suffering from kidney ailments and they can avail free treatment at Government hospitals. On the other hand, the district health officials denied deaths due to kidney disease in the villages and said water samples were collected from the area for tests. Meanwhile, OSCOM authorities said they have the required facilities to check radiation.

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