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Uranium in Water, 200 reverse osmosis plants of little use


Like other heavy metals, uranium can not be neutralised by the RO technique. The Punjab government’s exercise of setting up of over 200 RO plants in Bathinda, Mansa and surrounding districts has proved futile. Experts claim that the government has to go for other techniques to decontaminate potable water of uranium and other heavy metals.

Dr Rohit Mehra, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, Dr BR Ambedkar National Institute of Technology, Jalandhar, who examined hand pump water in 34 villages, found uranium in water was more alarming in Mansa district of Punjab compared to Faridkot.

The study found that the level of uranium, radium, thorium and potassium in soil samples was also higher. “The possible reasons for high level may be the extension of Tosham Hills under soils of Bathinda region, but for the final conclusion more analysis is required,” he said.

Dr Mehra claimed that the RO system was not suitable for the separation of uranium, radium, thorium and certain other heavy metals from the water. Instead of filtration, the RO plant could develop certain faults, he revealed.

The government should either go for some other technique for purifying the water for uranium and other heavy metals or only the canal water be used in RO plants. He, however, ruled out the possibility of high level of uranium in water drawn from deep bore wells.

On the presence of uranium in air, Dr Mehra claimed the mismanagement of fly ash in huge quantity in Bathinda might be another factor contaminating underground water as well as air. Mud houses, as loose soil contains uranium, and construction material having permissible quantity of fly ash, apart from marble and granite, should be avoided to get rid of the problem.

Chief Engineer (South), Water Supply and Sanitation Department, Punjab, SR Aggarwal, claimed that the government had taken up the setting up 98 RO plants in Bathinda district and 78 in Mansa district alone. Setting up of one RO plant costs from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh.

“The plants are being installed in identified villages, besides those on the tail end of the canals. The department has been planning to get waters tested afresh from known laboratories and research centres after the apprehensions of uranium level in potable waster in the region,” claimed Aggarwal.

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