Meghalaya assembly panel recommends independent inquiry into radiation leak

A Meghalaya assembly committee on environment has recommended the state government to engage an independent agency to conduct a study on the alleged radiation leak in the uranium-rich areas in South West Khasi Hills district.

The panel conducted a study tour to Domiasiat, Nongbah-Jynrin and Wahkaji area on November 3. It also recommended that the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB) in collaboration with the Central Pollution Control Board continue monitoring of the radiation level in the villages adjoining Domiasiat since the MSPCB is yet to issue a “certificate to establish” although the Atomic Minerals Directorate has stopped all activities in the area following the government’s revocation of the land lease to Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) including suspension of uranium exploration and mining by UCIL.

“The government may engage an independent agency or organization having expertise at its disposal to conduct a study on the radiation level in the villages surrounding Domiasiat including uranium content in surface water of all water bodies flowing in the area. People of the area may need to be taken into confidence while carrying out this exercise,” read the report which was tabled by the chairman of the House Committee on Environment, Syntar Klas Sunn in the assembly on November 9.

Expressing concern on the higher radiation level at the location near the Jimiri river, the panel said: “As surface water is the main source of drinking water for the villages adjoining Domiasiat, the uranium content in water bodies have to be monitored on a regular basis.”

“Considering the varying radiation level in and around the area, the committee has also recommended that a health survey may need to be conducted to ascertain the health condition of people residing in the area and a report may be submitted to the assembly by the health department,” the report read.

The panel also recommended that the abandoned three uranium test mine pits and two repository tanks be declared as protected/restricted areas to which only authorized persons may be allowed access.

The committee also recommended the need to open a police outpost at Wahkaji for securing this sensitive location.

Wahkaji is about 2 hours by vehicle from Mawkyrwat while Domiasiat is another one hour by vehicle and half an hour on foot.

“Considering the distance, the committee recommends immediate posting of police personnel for securing this sensitive location by opening a police outpost at Wahkaji,” the report recommended.

Representatives of concerned villages and NGOs during an interaction session with panel members at Wahkaji village had also expressed concern on the issue of health hazards arising out of the uranium radiation in the area.

“They expressed that most of them were informed by an environmental activist who visited the site recently with measuring equipment that there is a high level of uranium radiation due to crack developed in the repository tanks endangering the people of the surrounding villages,” the report said.

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