IIT Mandi warns of high levels of cancer-causing pollutants in Baddi-Barotiwala groundwater - Hindustan Times
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IIT Mandi warns of high levels of cancer-causing pollutants in Baddi-Barotiwala groundwater

By, Chandigarh
Jun 13, 2024 10:51 PM IST

The study found that the groundwater in the area is concentrated with industrial pollutants such as zinc, lead, cobalt, nickel, and chromium, as well as naturally occuring uranium, that can pose a grave risk to human health.

The groundwater in Himachal’s Baddi-Barotiwala (BB) industrial area has high levels of cancer-causing toxic metals, a study by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi and IIT Jammu has revealed.

The groundwater in Himachal’s Baddi-Barotiwala (BB) industrial area has a high levels of cancer-causing toxic metals, a study by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi and IIT Jammu has revealed. (Representational image)
The groundwater in Himachal’s Baddi-Barotiwala (BB) industrial area has a high levels of cancer-causing toxic metals, a study by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi and IIT Jammu has revealed. (Representational image)

The study found that the groundwater in the area is concentrated with industrial pollutants such as zinc, lead, cobalt, nickel, and chromium, as well as naturally occurring uranium, that can pose a grave risk to human health.

The researchers involved in the study are Deepak Swami, associate professor, School of Civil & Environmental Engineering, IIT Mandi, research scholar Utsav Rajput of IIT Mandi, and Nitin Joshi, assistant professor, department of civil engineering, IIT Jammu.

Joshi said, “Our research group conducted a field study to map the pollution status in the industrial region of Baddi-Barotiwala. The objective was to analyse the chemical composition of the groundwater, which is considered readily potable by the nearby communities. The analysis revealed that, if left unattended, the lower Himalayan region is on a similar trajectory to south-western Punjab (which has high incidence of cancer).”

Speaking to Hindustan Times, Rajput revealed that the study was conducted in August 2023, post monsoon, when the groundwater was majorly diluted.

“If the samples collected post monsoon had such high levels of heavy metals, the concentration could be much higher in drier and pre-monsoon months, which means higher health risks for the people in the area,” he explained.

The samples were collected from 37 locations in the area during the said period.

A major chunk of the population here comprises labourers and workers employed in industries and other sectors, who may not have ready access to advanced drinking water treatment facilities and rely on untreated groundwater for consumption. “People here majorly depend on groundwater, not just for domestic and agricultural consumption, but also for industrial uses,” said Rajput.

The study also cites a 2020 report, which states that between 2013 and 2018, the Baddi industrial region recorded 1,983 cases of cancer.

Swami said there is an urgent need for policy makers to balance industrial development with public health for sustainable growth.

“Industries such as pharmaceutical and textile industries are most likely to discharge metal contaminants into water. A lot of times, it is observed that these industries skip theessential effluent treatment stage, which is the major cause of groundwater contamination.”

Swami further revealed that once contaminated water has seeped into the ground, it is very difficult to purify it as the process will involve pumping out the groundwater and then ridding it of pollutants. Thus, his team of researchers is working on treating water before it mixes with groundwater. “We are looking at nature-based solutions such as soil and nanoremediation technology to treat the water,” he added.

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