A State government-appointed expert committee has found unscientific disposal of poisonous wastes by the State-owned Hutti Gold Mines to be the main reason for excess arsenic content in groundwater in four taluks of Raichur and Yadgir districts of the State.
The four-member committee headed by well-known social worker Dr H Sudarshan has found that about 63 drinking water borewells in Devadurga, Lingasugur, Manvi (Raichur district) and Shorapur (Yadgir) taluks have been contaminated by excess arsenic content.
“Dumping of Cyanide by Hutti Gold Mines is found to be the main reason for the contamination. The Cyanide dump should be disposed of on a concrete surface surrounded by a wall. It should not be allowed to percolate into the earth. But the company is not following this method,” Sudarshan told reporters on Monday, after submitting the report to Rural Development Minister H K Patil.
After sealing the contaminated borewells in these places in the interest of public health recently, the government had set up the committee to look into the problem and make appropriate recommendations to stop the contamination. Irrigation expert Arun Patil, geologist R H Sahukar and Managing Director of Karnataka Rural Infrastructure Development Corporation H G Shivananda Murthy were the other members of the committee.
However, Dr Sudarshan said the contamination is in the early stages and any major damage to the ecology can be prevented by taking immediate remedial measures. Two persons in a tanda in Raichur are suspected to have been afflicted by cancer, while many people in these places have skin diseases due to the contamination, he said.
Over-exploitation of groundwater and use of excess chemical fertilisers by farmers are also the reasons for the contamination, he said.
The committee found that the government laboratories in both the districts lacked equipment to check the water quality. Though the local Gram Panchayats have been provided with kits to check water quality, it does not contain equipment to test for arsenic contamination. As a result, local people are not sure whether they are drinking safe water or not, he said.
The Health department should immediately fling into action. Tests should be conducted to verify whether the local animals, especially domestic ones, and crops have been affected. If contaminated, use of groundwater should be immediately stopped, Sudarshan said.
Patil said the government would look into the recommendations of the report and take appropriate steps in 15 days. It had been already decided to set up a modern laboratory in Raichur, he said.
Asked what action the government would take against the company, the minister said cyanide dumping would have happened out of ignorance and lack of knowledge. The government will involve the company in rehabilitation of the affected people, he said.