Environmentalists have blamed the presence of heavy metals, including uranium, in subsoil water for deadly diseases, particularly cancer, in the Malwa region of the state and demanded that the union government must help the state, which is paying the price of green revolution, to find out the reason how uranium is constantly contaminating the water in the state.
"It has already been established after that uranium was present in the range of 6 to 600 per part billion (ppb), which is much higher than the permissible limit of 60 ppb at places," claimed Dr Amar Singh Azad, a former expert in special preventive medicines and a pediatrician of government medical college, Patiala, at a press conference here on Saturday.
"The presence of higher level of uranium is the cause behind many diseases such as cancer, different kinds of handicaps by birth in children, decline in sperm count, abortions and many other diseases which are on rise in the state," he claimed.
According to him, the probable known sources of uranium are the excessive burning of coal and phosphate fertilisers.
"Punjab has about 1.5 per cent of the total area of the state, but it is using about 18 and 12 per cent pesticides and fertilisers respectively, a very dangerous trend for the depletion of environment," claimed Dr Azad.
"We need to establish how uranium is contaminating the subsoil water in the state. Providing drinking water by ROs is not a complete and permanent solution. When we wash our bodies with the water contaminated by heavy metals, or our livestock drink it, it directly affects the humans," claimed Dr Carin Smith, a clinical metal toxicologist and international environmentalist from Johannesburg, South Africa, talking to the media here.
"Diseases like cancer are on an alarming rise in Punjab, particularly in the Malwa belt and the governments must take it seriously to find the root cause of this problem. The rise of diseases is a clear indication that something very serious must be going on with our environment," she said.
"The presence of uranium in our body leads to concentration of other poisonous substances or heavy metals that further damage the system," she said.
"We appeal to the scientific community of India like Indian council of medical research and world health organisation to take the matter very seriously. The governments must form a special commission to investigate and suggest remedial measures to tackle this issue," said Dr Carin Smith and Amar Singh Azad.
Though uranium has been a much- debated issue since 2009, when it was found in hair samples of some mentally retarded children from Faridkot by a German lab, yet concrete steps to find out the source of uranium remain to be taken," said Dr Azad.