Radiation level in uranium-rich areas of Meghalaya ‘within safety limit’

An expert committee of North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) has found that radioactive radiation in uranium-rich deposits in and around Nongbah Jynrin, Wahkaji in South West Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya is “well within the safety levels.”

The six-member expert committee headed by B Myrboh from Department of Chemistry at NEHU was requested by the state government to investigate after reports claimed that there was leakage of radiation from a concrete tank allegedly containing radioactive remnants of an exploratory uranium mining at Nongbah Jynrin village in the state’s South West Khasi Hills district bordering Bangladesh.

“The report of the NEHU expert committee reveals that the radiation levels at the source (tanks and pits) and villages/habitations nearby as per the millisievert/year unit of measurement using the Radiation Survey Meteisre well within the safety levels,” a media statement issued by the joint secretary, revenue and disaster management department said on January 28.

“Further, the committee found that 100 feet away from the source in the rivulet Phud Syngkai, the levels of radiation are higher than at the source which requires further study,” the statement added.

The statement revealed that the Meghalaya government will undertake a separate study on the rocks and sediments of the stream Phud Syngkai and get them analysed at a credible laboratory to determine the exact cause of the radiation.

Nongbah Jynrin is about 55 km from Mawkyrwat and 135 km from state capital Shillong.

Meghalaya is the third uranium-rich state in the country after Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh.

On August 29, 2017, the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) had temporarily closed down its establishments in Meghalaya since the government-owned mining company did not receive mining lease and statutory permission from the state government.

Prior to the UCIL temporarily closing down its office, the Atomic Mineral Directorate stopped its exploratory drilling in uranium-rich South West Khasi Hills district after its officials were attacked and machines used for taking subsurface samples were also set on fire.

UCIL had proposed to set up an open-cast uranium mining and processing plant at Mawthabah.

Meghalaya has an estimated 9.22 million tonnes of uranium ore deposits.

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