Chandigarh: A laboratory will be set up at Mohali in Punjab with the assistance of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre to detect the presence of uranium and heavy metals in water, Union Minister Jairam Ramesh said on Friday.

The laboratory, to be built at a cost of Rs 4 crore, would be operational in next six to eight months.

"A water testing laboratory will be set up in Mohali with a cost of Rs 4 crore as uranium and heavy metal in water is found to be a big problem in Punjab. BARC will assist in the lab," Ramesh said after chairing a regional review meeting on drinking water supply and sanitation here.

The proposed lab would carry out tests for detecting uranium and heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury in water. "These tests will help us to contain the problem of such contents in water," the Rural Development minister said.

Rolling out data on the presence of uranium in Punjab, Ramesh said out of total 2,462 water samples, 1,140 samples tested positive for the radioactive metal.

"We took 2,462 water samples from tubewells from across the state and got them tested. We received results for 1,642 samples and out of which 1,140 samples are uranium positive," he said.

Water contaminated with uranium was found in Malwa districts of state including Mansa, Bathinda, Moga, Faridkot, Barnala, Sangrur and some parts of Ludhiana as well.

Ramesh said Punjab probably is the only state in the country where traces of uranium were found in water.

An expert committee led by Principal Secretary of Science and Technology has been constituted to give suggestions for tackling the serious problem within three months, he said.

Though there had not been any in-depth study on uranium contaminated water in Punjab, he said one reason could be the presence of phosphatic fertilisers in the soil that trigger uranium content in affected areas.

(Agencies)

Latest News from Punjab News Desk