NHRC Issues Notice To Government Over HuffPost Report On Nuclear Contamination In Jharkhand

16/12/2015 7:51 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Ashish Birulee/Centre For Public Integrity

NEW DELHI -- The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognizance of a report from the Centre for Public Integrity, published on Monday by The Huffington Post. The report, part of a four-part investigative series authored by the journalist Adrian Levy, detailed how India’s nuclear industry has created a 'river of death' in Jadugoda district's Subarnarekha River in Jharkhand.

The NHRC has issued notices today to the Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India; Chairman, Uranium Corporation of India; and Chief Secretary, Government of Jharkhand, who are expected to furnish reports within two weeks.

Justice D. Murugesan, present member of NHRC and former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, said that if the press report was true, it raised "a serious issue of violation of rights to health of the workers and local residents, besides damage to the environment, flora and fauna".

According to the report published earlier this week, India's nuclear establishment has systematically overlooked evidence that points at toxic leaks from the site and the resulting radiation hazard to those living around it. This was revealed when a team led by professor Dipak Ghosh, a respected Indian physicist and dean of the Faculty of Science at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, decided to study why locals alleged that the river was poisoned and was routinely causing illnesses in their community.

When Ghosh’s team collected samples from the river and from adjacent wells, seven years ago, he was alarmed by the results. The water was adulterated with radioactive alpha particles that cannot be absorbed through the skin or clothes, but if ingested cause 1,000 times more damage than other types of radiation. In some places, the levels were 160 percent higher than safe limits set by the World Health Organization.

“It was potentially catastrophic,” Ghosh said in a recent interview. Millions of people along the waterway were potentially exposed.

What the professor’s team uncovered was hard evidence of the toxic footprint of the country's secret nuclear mining and fuel fabrication program. The program is now the subject of a potentially powerful legal action that shines an unusual light on India’s nuclear ambitions and casts a cloud over its future reactor operations.

Read the entire report here.

Part 2 in the series: Inside A Community’s Fierce Fight To Prevent A Nuclear Tragedy

The series on India's nuclear program and its effects is produced by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C. Read more of their reporting on nuclear security or follow them on Twitter.

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