Cancer cases rise rapidly, children in many areas develop deformities in the Malwa region
SP Sharma, Tribune News Service
Bathinda, April 14. Containing a high content of uranium and heavy metals, the poor quality underground drinking water in the Malwa region has become a cause for concern among the residents. Not only has the incidence of cancer shown an upward trend, children have also developed deformities in several villages in Fazilka district.
A recent study conducted by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), which confirmed the high uranium content in underground water, particularly in Faridkot district, sent shockwaves throughout Punjab.
Even the quality of filtered drinking water in Bathinda town was not found any better. The water was being supplied in an unhygienic way to the residents. The content of fluoride was found to be beyond the permissible limit and it was reportedly causing bone-related diseases.
The research, conducted jointly by the BARC and Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, had attributed the high concentration of dissolved uranium in groundwater to high salinity, alkalinity, excessive use of chemical fertilisers like phosphate and TDS (total dissolved solids). These components, the researchers claimed, increased the solubility of uranium in water.
The high uranium content in groundwater was also traced in other parts of Bathinda as well as Mansa districts. The highest content was found in Karamgarh Satran village of Bathinda where it was measured at 644 µg/L, followed by Dhillawan (463.6 µg/L), Giana (292.65 µg/L) and Gudda (165.85 µg/L).
The BARC report even showed the water of many hand-pumps on the banks of Indira Gandhi Canal and Sirhind Feeder Canal in the area containing high uranium traces.
The villages in Bathinda and Mansa with high uranium concentration include Karamgarh Satran, Dhillawaan, Giana, Gudda, Siriyara, Ghabri Bhaji, Sangat Kanchiyan, Chabri, Chugge Kalan, Nathana, Balluana, Aklia Kalan, Gobindpur, Budhlada, Mansa and Bhikhi. In Fazilka, the affected villages include Dona Nanka, Teja Rohela, Jhangar Bhaini, Gulaba Bhaini, Ram Singh Bhaini, Mahatam Nagar and Gatti number 2 and 3 and Gulam Rasool. These are situated along the Sutlej creek and the residents have been suffering from skin and various other serious ailments.
Apart from the excess use of fertilisers, industrial pollutants flowing into the Chand Bhan drain from different areas were also to blame. The pollutants have rendered the subsoil water unfit for human consumption. It is brackish and highly contaminated with fluoride and other toxic chemicals.
(With inputs by Balwant Garg, Sushil Goyal, Anirudh Gupta, Raj Sadosh and Praful Nagpal)