VIJAYAWADA/KADAPA : The Human Rights Forum (HRF) has expressed concern over the alleged breach of the embankment and consequent overflow of contents of a tailings pond of the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) mine at Thummalapalli in Vemula mandal of Kadapa district.
The HRF said the waste generated while processing uranium is stored in the tailings pond in the form of slurry. Uranium tailings contain over a dozen radioactive nuclides. These ponds hold hazardous radioactive matter that is highly toxic in nature and is a constant menace to the health of people, groundwater, local water bodies, agriculture and livestock in the area, the HRF said.
The embankment of the tailings pond, located close to KK Kottala village and the Erravanka rivulet, gave way due to incessant rain in the area on the intervening night of September 2-3. Residents of Mabbuchintapalli,Thummalapalle, Bhoomaiahgaripalle, Rachakuntapalle and KK Kottala fear contamination in the area.
“This is not the first time such an incident has occurred in the tailing pond. On June 9 this year, a short spell of intense rain caused overflow from the tailings pond and the spewing of radioactive waste and toxic slurry in the adjoining area. Nearby farmlands were inundated to a depth of nearly 6 feet with farmers suffering loss of banana and other crops. The UCIL claimed then that it did not envisage such a heavy rainfall,’’ HRF AP&TS Coordination Committee members VS Krishna and A Chandrasekhar said.
Regulatory authorities have done precious little to hold UCIL accountable for its “criminality”, the HRF said. “Bodies like the Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) have not examined the veracity of UCIL’s assertions that it is complying with norms and have systematically overlooked evidence that points to radiation hazards,’’ they alleged.
The HRF demanded steps to ensure compliance by the UCIL in respect of safety norms, and compensation to affected residents in the area. “A comprehensive study must be undertaken focussing on the safety aspects of UCIL operations. Given its frequent violations and refusal to take any corrective steps, the UCIL operations at Thummalapalle must be immediately put on hold and the facility must not be allowed to expand its capacity,’’ they demanded.
Meanwhile, the farmers affected with the leakage held a roundtable on the issue at KK Kottala village and demanded compensation. They urged the management to take steps to ensure that such incidents do not recur. The UCIL held a meeting with the farmers and assured of looking into their grievances.