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Environmental Consultant, Bangalore


Dr. M.A.R. Iyengar, obtained his Ph D from Bombay University, after completing his M.Sc (inorganic chem.) from Osmania University, Hyderabad, specialising in Radiochemistry and joining the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, as scientific officer in 1960 and retired from service in 1999. His work area corresponds to Environmental Health and Safety aspects of Nuclear energy, including the mining and processing aspects of uranium, radiological health and safety surveillance of nuclear power plants in pre-operational and operational phases, at Madras Atomic Power Station, Kalpakkam, and assessment of population dose estimates round the year. In this context, Dr. Iyengar has been involved with systematic radiological surveys of the environment, developing sensitive radiochemical procedures to analyse and estimate various radio-nuclides-both natural and manmade, in a range of environmental matrices, whole body counting, radiological emergency mock-up drills and surveys in off-site areas. He has actively participated Public awareness programmes laying emphasis on the importance of Nuclear Energy for national development etc.

During his nearly four decades of scientific career in DAE, Dr. Iyengar has published more than 100 Research papers, Review Articles , in National and International journals, besides contributing two Monograph documents on Radium in the Environment, published by the International Atomic Energy agency, Vienna. He has published many Popular Science articles, on the environmental Radioactivity aspects brought out by Professional Societies, organisations, media etc.

During his professional career, Dr. Iyengar has visited a number of foreign institutions abroad and participated in international conferences, research programme review meetings, and delivered seminar talks. He was deputed abroad as an Exchange Scientist under Indo-German Nuclear Cooperation Agreement to Nuclear Research Centre, Juelich, Germany during 1982-83, and under this programme he has carried out extensive research and environmental investigations on radioactivity distributions and developed new analytical methods for the same. He has participated in Research coordination Meetings of IAEA in Indonesia, Japan, USA, France, Austria, and Germany, besides within the country.

Following retirement in 1999, he has devoted his R&D efforts in the area of water purification aiming to improve public and community health aspects. In this context he has successfully developed and brought out a user- friendly gadget for purifying drinking waters contaminated with heavy metals like Arsenic, Lead , and Radioactivity (Radium, Pb-210, etc.,) present in ground waters. Presently this device-which can be operated even in the absence of power supply, is being marketed by M/s Eureka Forbes, a market leader and the makers of Aqua Guard water purifier. Presently he is involved in focusing efforts, to develop remediation technologies for chromium and fluoride affected water supplies in the community, with good success.


Title:Health hazard aspects of radioactivity and toxic heavy metals in ground waters to the community

In the wake of growing pace of industrial development in the country, rapidly expanding urbanisation, besides the customary agriculture sector operations, the availability of surface water resources to the community, has become an issue of major concern. In such a scenario, the role of ground waters assumes considerable significance, which presently has thus emerged as an alternative or even main stay resource, to large sections of the urban community, in parts of the country. The situation is also no different in many rural areas, either due to lack of connective network, or in traditional drought prone areas, in large tracts of the country, making the rural community highly dependent on the available ground water resources. As a consequence, the ground water resources are being exploited in the country on an unprecedented scale, whether for Agricultural, Industrial or Community water supply needs, with little regard to the health and safety issues, besides its sustainability in the years to come.

Apart from the per capita availability issue of ground waters to large sections of the resident community, whether urban or rural, the quality issue of ground water sources and the attendant impact on the health of the consumer community, has not been seriously reckoned either by the public or by the concerned authorities. Because unlike surface waters, ground waters are generally known to contain greater contents of dissolved impurities, including elevated hardness levels, fluoride, a traditionally noted health hazard, besides toxic heavy metals like lead, arsenic and radioactivity which all-either individually or collectively could seriously impair consumer health. Also, lead, chromium, aluminium, Iron among others, have also been documented from many studies, to find their way into ground water sources in areas with high industrial activities, in urban, semi-urban and also some rural areas, in the country. The ground waters are also host to some naturally occurring radioactive constituents, notably Radium, arising from natural leaching processes of subterranean rocks in granitic regions, and uranium containing minerals occurring naturally in some areas of the country.

Also in large tracts of India, notably in West Bengal, U.P, Assam, the ground waters have been found to contain very significant levels of Arsenic occurrence in ground waters, due to natural processes of weathering of arsenic bearing minerals, thus posing serious health hazards issues to large sections of community. It is well known that Arsenic has a very high degree of toxicity to human health, leading to severe health impairment, including premature mortality due to multiple organ failure. The Arsenic issue has also drawn national and global concern in neighbouring Bangladesh, which is among the worst arsenic affected countries in the world, affecting large sections of population. Many International agencies along with the national authorities in Bangladesh are presently involved in addressing the issue to resolve the same successfully.

In the light of the above, several water purification technologies are presently being pursued with some success in India and elsewhere, to address and remedy the heavy metal toxicity aspects of community ground water supplies and to ensure safe drinking waters to the community. In this context, the author has successfully developed an improved heavy metal remediation technology, which has been demonstrated to efficiently deal with the toxic metal and radioactivity issues in such contaminated waters, at the individual household level, thus ensuring safe water delivery at the user end. Some of the above aspects are discussed in this presentation.