A three-member expert committee, which submitted its report to the state government here on Monday, held the state-owned Hutti Gold Mines Limited (HGML) responsible for arsenic in drinking water in four taluks of North Karnataka.
The report stated the mines unscientifically dumped millions of tonnes of tailings in an open area, leading to contamination of groundwater.
The committee, headed by Magsaysay awardee H Sudarshan, in its report to Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister H K Patil, suggested temporary and permanent solutions to the problems being faced by villagers in the region.
The report also expressed apprehension over possible arsenic contamination of crops and foodgrains produced in and around the area.
The report traced problems in over-exploitation of groundwater and overuse of chemical fertilisers in and around Raichur and Yadgir districts.
Sudarshan said that the committee undertook extensive field visits to a few villages in Manvi, Lingasugur and Devadurga taluks in Raichur district, and Shorapur in Yadgir district where people are suffering from severe skin diseases and cancer.
He said: “The committee found arsenic concentration of more than 0.01 to 0.05 ppm (which is the Maximum Admissible Concentration as per World Health Organisation (WHO) in over 63 borewells, which needs to be plugged permanently.”
Sudarshan also strongly recommended to the state government to ensure that the HGML dumps its waste in concrete covered dumps.
The committee said the state government should supply surface-sourced water to the villages and install a state-of-the-art laboratory to test for arsenic contamination.
“HGML should bear the cost of providing pure drinking water to villages surrounding its manufacturing unit,” the report said.
Patil said the state government will take the report seriously.
“There will be an action plan to see that solutions are provided within two weeks,” he said.
Sending a strong message to HGML, Patil said, “They (HGML) have to take note of their culpability and take remedial measures. If they fail, we will not hesitate to take action against them.”