Shillong: An expert committee from the North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) has said that radiation levels in tanks at Nongbah Jynrin in South West Khasi Hills are within safe limits. The team, however, found that radiation levels were much higher than the safe limits about 100 feet away from the source of Phud Syngkai, a rivulet, which the team says will require further study.
The expert committee report comes four months after news came of cracks and leaks from uranium effluent tanks at Nongbah Jynrin, which raised and renewed concerns over uranium mining in the region and the potential exposure of the people to radiation downstream.
A six-member team, led by Prof. B. Myrboh, Department of Chemistry, NEHU, visited the site on November 10 last year.
The NEHU Expert Committee report revealed that radiation levels at the source (i.e. tanks and pits) and villages/habitations nearby, as per the millisievert/year unit of measurement using the Radiation Survey Meter, are well within the safety levels.
Reacting to the Committee’s findings, the state government has now decided to undertake a separate study on the rocks and sediments of the rivulet Phud Syngkai and get them analysed at a credible laboratory “to determine the exact cause of the radiation.”
In October 16, 2020, the Meghalaya government had appointed the expert committee to investigate the alleged cracks and leaks from the uranium effluent tanks. The government had sprung into action only after news reports on September 21 about cracks in a uranium effluent tank in South West Khasi Hills.
A magisterial inquiry had ruled out the incident and Deputy Commissioner of SWKH, Cara Kharkongor, had said that no such leakage took place.
As reported by EastMojo earlier, it was back in the 1970s, when the Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD) came surveying for uranium in Meghalaya and found a huge deposit in the Domiasiat area and its surrounding villages.
While India tested its first nuclear bomb in 1974, the deposits in Meghalaya were found to be a good source of high-grade uranium. The actual experimental mining started in the 1990 and went on until 1995, during which the AMD dug about 650 tonnes of uranium just for an experiment.
This led to public outcry from civil societies and villages in the West Khasi Hills District, leading former Chief Minister Brington Buhai Lyngdoh to order a stop to all exploratory mining and AMD operations at Domiasiat in the 1990s.
Talking to EastMojo earlier, environmental economist Dr Bremley WB Lyngdoh, founder and CEO of Ecofriend World had said: “AMD packed their bags overnight leaving their tools and gears behind and everything was contaminated. So they were summoned to clean up the mess, they were asked to dig huge tanks and seal from the top. So they dumped all their radioactive gears, tools in these concrete tanks and there were more than 1 concrete tank and were huge. These concrete tanks had a ventilating pipe, if it does not have ventilation the whole tank can just blow up since we’re dealing with high grade ore here.”