Jadugoda, Drowning in Nuclear Greed.

The Uranium Corporation of India (UCIL), a public sector enterprise, has been mining for and processing Uranium in Jadugoda, East Singhbhum district, Jharkhand since 1967. It  is not just nuclear explosions and accidents at nuclear reactors that cause radiation exposure, mining of uranium and processing of ore is equally dangerous.

Being a Ho tribal resident of Jadugoda I have personally experienced the hazardous effects of radiation on our region, turning it into another Hiroshima of sorts. Genetic deformities and various kinds of cancers have become very common in the region. My very own grandparents died of lung cancer-my grandfather was an employed in UCIL. The tragedy continues as people still dwell there and the consequences are far more serious than before.

My father Ghanshyam Birulee was the first to realize the effects of radiation in Jadugoda and started pondering upon the problems. He led a struggle against radiation and founded the Jharkhand Organisation Against Radiation. Due to the struggle in Jadugoda the issue got highlighted in local, national and international media. Documentaries like Buddha Weeps in Jadugoda by filmmaker Shriprakash and a health study done by IDPD (Indian Doctors for Peace and Development) brought more attention to the problem. These works have given strength to Jadugoda’s struggle, brought awareness to people across the world and also helped in the birth of new struggles at nuclear related projects across India.

Most importantly it gave me a vision to look at the problems of my own community from a different medium. I believe I can become a mediator through my photography to the world. I have felt the pain and sorrow that the people of my region bear- the regret of being born in Jadugoda, fear of living in a radiation zone and a desire, wish and hope for relief. I know I could be the next victim, the thought frightens me. The pain, sorrow and fear that we are facing in Jadugoda should not happen with any person in any corner of the world.

I think it’s time we said enough is enough. The governments’ false pride in being nuclear powers is costing many ordinary citizens’ right to lead a normal life. More than the public it is the governments that need awareness on this issue.

I hope this little effort by me will bring more awareness.


The Uranium purification plant operated by Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) at Jaduguda. Mining operations commenced here in 1967.


The pipeline of death: The 3km-long pipeline carries and dumps lethal radioactive waste from the processing plant to the tailing Dam, which later meets the Subarnarekha river.


The third tailing dam, carrying thousands of tons of Uranium waste, lies uncovered. The radiation here increases by about 2mVs (millisievert) per year.


The UCIL has put up the boards near the tailing pond in self-defense, to wash its hands off in case of an accident. With no barriers to stop them, children who have no idea about the health hazards still go to the tailing pond.


Children near the tailing pond.


Villagers worship at Jaherthan ( a religious place) between the 1st (on the left) and 2nd (on the right) tailing ponds.  The Shakwa trees in Jaherthan, considered holy by the adivasis, are all dead due to high levels of radiation. The Jaherthan too will be lost as the 1st tailing dam is being extended.


Vegetation set on fire by UCIL for the second time on 28 March, 2013 to facilitate extension of the 1st tailing pond.


Leafy vegetables being washed in the Gurra river where Uranium waste is released. These vegetables are sold in local markets and even in places free from nuclear contamination.


A truck carrying Uranium waste passes through public spaces.


A child with Gastroschisis, common in the area.


Babulal Bhumij of Tuar Dungridih village lives barely 100m away from the 1st tailing dam. His father Shuklal Bhumij, a contract labour in UCIL, passed away a few months ago.


A helpless father trying to entertain his son Gandhakar Karmakar, a Down syndrome victim.


Sameer Acharya, son of a former UCIL employee, has congenital deformity.


Significant number of children in the region cannot traverse normally in streets and home, with many unable to even ride a wheelchair. Achai Baskey (10) of Rajdoha village is a megacephalic victim and is also mentally and physically weak.


Sonaram Mardi (7), whose family lives in a village barely 1 km from the tailing dam, suffers from Thalassemia.


A girl here faces more difficulties than a boy. Olabati Oraon (22) suffers from physical and mental disabilities.


Duniya Oraon, younger brother of Olaboti takes food. Deformities and mutations like this are endemic. It is a heavy price that the people of Jadugoda are paying for living close to a toxic mining facility.


Most children here dream of becoming good competitors but end up competing with their own disabilities. The hands that want to write prose and poetry end up  scribbling.


A smile can hide so much pain. It seems the residents of Jadugoda can only smile through their plight.


I’m Ashish Birulee aged 24, born and brought up in Jadugoda. I’m pursuing a B.A. sociology honors from EIILM University, Sikkim through distance education. These photos of the toxic effects of mining in Jadugoda have been exhibited at the 3rd International Uranium Film Festival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2013.

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  • Pooja

    These photos have knocked me down.. there must be many more areas across the world where people are suffering due to this. The government has to take certain steps to save the habitat in these areas where mining activities take place..

  • Arjun Rajpati

    This is sickining. how long will our prople suffer and we will stay happy in our nuclear pride and prestige. Shameful. if we cant stop such practicies then how can we manage our nuclear weapons. we have failed as a state We are worse than animals.

  • Tooba mansoor

    these photos just trembled me up.. Government should take steps to bring people out of this.This uranium mining process is causing to damage to one’s right to live a healthy life.. Government is just pursuing the policies of how to get its border more and more secured but forgotten to think about human security…

  • usman ali khan

    one can see the clear face of UCIL how they are creating hazards in the name of security where the are unable to provide safety to their own masses creating dangerous hazards for human life. UN bodies must take some action on it to make the life of people easy there….enough is enough they have got much nuclear capability…. the international community must also think on it that whenever some thing happened in pakistan everybody raise his/her finger towards pakistan nuclear but I can say proudly that we have acquired it for the safety of our nation rather putting our nation in danger like the one shown above..

  • Mohankar

    When will we heed to the fact that the Jaduguda region does not show increased radiation levels? If the radiation levels were indeed so high, would the Jaduguda colony be still remain occupied by the DAE staff?

    The thorium rich South west coastal region of Kerala show radiation levels which are many times are more. There still no relationship between the congenital malformation/ radiation related deaths in the region. Why are we not paying attention to the scientific findings?

    • Amitabh Patra

      Dear MR. Mohankar, would you like to make a personal visit to the village, stay there for a month during summer with the people as they are living and then tell the same thing, after coming back safely without being affected by the radiation ?

      • Mohankar

        Dear Shri Amitabh patra,
        Are you implying that the radiation levels are more during the summer? The problems being faced by the population in the region could be mainly related to poverty and malnutrition. It is possible that the government schemes for the poor are not reaching the region. Does that mean UCIL should be held responsible for the problems faced ? It is not correct. Moreover, there is no point believing /posing that every individual is an expert in everything under the Sun. Please let the experts do their work and believe in their scientific observations. Nuclear scientists do not pose that they are experts in medicine. The medical doctors too should at least do a thorough study before attributing every possible ailment to radiation.

  • Amitabh Patra

    Thanks for bringing out this recent version of “Buddha Smiling in Jaduguda.”

  • Amitabh Patra

    Mr. Mohankar, you need to make a personal visit to the place to realize. You can see the video report made a few years back with very much scientific and medical data – ” buddha weeps in jaduguda” search it… and please make a visit to the place with radiation meter in hand… you will know how less or how much it is… I am sure you are not going to take the risk of visiting the tailing pond … but people there use the water, children play there, and UCIL scientists and atomic energy commission keeps its eyes closed at the difficulties of people.

  • Rupesh

    Is UCIL implying that these deformities and spike in cancer cases of the villagers in the vicinity is mere a coincidence.
    Do they have an impartial probe report?

    Do they have any Medical help extended in those area and found the “root” cause of these “coincidences”.

    Anyway…..thanks Ashish. Birulee.

  • Jaspal

    In my opinion, this is a typical case of encashing on public sentiments. The situation in Jaduguda is not as grave as it is shown to be. Ofcourse, these maynot be fake cases and there would be cases of similar deformities since birth. But these are avoidable cases which need to resolved in a pro-active manner instead of making UCIL look like a villain. It is more about educating the villagers about the extreme effects of radiation and uranium. Conducting simpler road-shows, street plays would bring about a far greater change in dealing with these situations.
    If you google for the radiation measures of Uranium companies all over the world, you would see most of them have a pretty impressive record of maintianing the radition levels pretty low not only for general public but also for the workers working in high-exposure areas. So it would not be prudent to judge this in a biased manner especially when the benefits significantly outweighs the negatives.
    Pl note I’m not working with any uranium-related companies and the above opinion is strictly personal in nature.