Panel to go into all aspects of endosulfan

J. VENKATESAN

http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/kerala/panel-to-go-into-all-aspects-of-endosulfan/article3981886.ece

Court asks Centre to spell out its stand

The Supreme Court has appointed an expert committee to go into all aspects of the ban on endosulfan and the disposal of the existing quantity of the pesticide.

The court has asked the Centre to spell out its stand on the manufacture and use of endosulfan in the country.

A Bench comprising Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice Madan B. Lokur, hearing a writ petition filed by the Democratic Youth Federation of India on Tuesday, said the committee to be headed by the Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) would have the Member-Secretary of the Centre Pollution Control Board, two scientists, and the Joint Secretary of Plant Protection from the Agriculture Ministry on it.

REPORT IN SIX WEEKS

The Bench asked the committee to submit its report in six weeks after undertaking a scientific study on the question whether the use of endosulfan would cause any serious health hazard to human beings and of its impact on environmental pollution. The panel would also recommend whether endosulfan should be permitted or to be banned completely in human interest.

Last year, the court had banned the manufacture and sale of endosulfan in the country. The Bench faulted the Centre for not giving its views whether the ban should continue or not.

The Bench said, ‘‘You can’t leave everything to court and say court is exceeding its limit. Why don’t you [the Centre] take a clear stand? If we say ban, you say economic crisis, and if we don’t ban, then it is human crisis. Either way we are blamed.’’

The Bench said the committee would also estimate the cost of the existing stock of the pesticide that should be destroyed. It posted the matter for further hearing on November 20.

Centre asks SC to allow use of toxic endosulfan

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Centre-asks-SC-to-allow-use-of-toxic-endosulfan/articleshow/15152546.cms

NEW DELHI: The Centre has requested the Supreme Court to permit exhausting of available stock of banned pesticide endosulfanby allowing its agricultural use in all states except Kerala and Karnataka on the ground that incineration cost of the stored pesticide could cost the exchequer over Rs 210 crore.

“The cost of disposal of live stock of endosulfan by incineration shall be more than Rs 210.82 crore, whereas phasing out would not only result in saving this huge amount on disposal but would also save the product (stock) worth Rs 31.36 lakh, which would contribute to increased crop production,” the agriculture ministry told the court.

It quoted the report of the Combined Expert Committee on Endosulfan, constituted on the SC’s direction, to say that 18 other states, other than Kerala and Karnataka, favoured use of endosulfan because it was a cheap broad spectrum pesticide very popular among farmers. The committee had also said the pesticide was “safe to pollinators without any ill-effects on human beings, animals and environment”.

The ministry said conference of the parties to the Stockholm Convention last year had permitted a phase-out period of five years for the pesticide. “Thus, use of endosulfan, which has not expired, may be allowed in India as per the provisions of Stockholm Convention so as to exhaust the existing stock of raw materials and finished products,” it said.

In its recommendations, the Union government sought resumption of manufacture of endosulfan from the existing stock of raw material, but said there should be a ban on its imports.

The apex court had on May 13, 2011, ordered a nationwide ban on manufacture, sale and use of endosulfan citing its toxic effects on humans and environment. It applied the precautionary principle to order the ban and said right to life was above all other interests and considerations and it could not “take on its head” a single child getting affected by the pesticide during the period when the Centre-appointed expert panel conducted tests to determine endosulfan’s toxicity.

The order had come on a PIL filed by Democratic Youth Federation of India, which cited the researches to allege that “endosulfan exposure in male children may delay sexual maturity and interfere with sex hormone synthesis”. It had also alleged that those exposed to the pesticide reported “higher prevalence of neuro-behavioural disorder”.

But the court later permitted export of endosulfan stocked with manufacturers, however refused to lift the ban on manufacture, sale and use.

The Kasaragod Declaration: on Endosulfan

The Kasaragod Declaration

from the National Workshop CONCORD 2012 to develop a Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Rebuilding Programme for the Survivors and a Rejuvenation of the Eco-systems in the Endosulfan affected areas of Kasaragod District.

We, the Participants of the National Workshop, that assembled under the Chairmanship of Sri P Karunakaran, MP and that was inaugurated by the Hon’ble Chief Minister of the Kerala State, Sri Oommen Chandy and consisted of the People’s representatives and leaders, activists and members of social, cultural, health and environmental organisations, experts in various fields, the victims and survivors of the endosulfan induced tragedy, the District administration and the Local Self Government members, recognise and accept the importance of rejuvenating the ecology of our land and remediating the health and rehabilitating and rebuilding the social systems of our people.

 We consider it a matter of pride that, as the affected people of Kasaragod, all the struggles that we fought was instrumental in getting a global ban of Endosulfan.

Our efforts to provide relief and remediate the impacted communities in Kasaragod in a  chemical disaster with highly complicated ramifications, had no models that we could follow.   Nevertheless, even in such a situation all of us including Peoples representatives, Government and Voluntary activists developed a democratic, collective process, which we, in this Workshop, reiterate that we will continue till our goal is achieved.

We recognise the impact and the complicated manifestations that the insecticide Endosulfan has caused to our land, people and biodiversity. We also see that problems are appearing afresh each day, many of which have become unpredictable. We also understand that in the areas where the poison was aerially sprayed, the common people, especially the socially and economically backward, continue to lead painful and suffering lives.  We continue to be concerned about the new generation being born with genetic abberations, and the tumultous future that is in store for them as well as the generations to come.

 

The health conditions of the people born in the Endosulfan  impacted areas is complicated. We understand that more efforts need to be taken, than has been done now, to establish the adequate systems and facilities needed to address such a complicated situation. We have understood through our experience that the direct and indirect impacts of the disaster are mostly borne by our women.

 

The various disabilities or different challenges with which many of our children were born have caused serious disruptions to their education.  We recognise that there needs to be more clarity as to the method of education that needs to be rendered to such children.  We understand that it is our responsibility to develop educational models and setup adequate systems to ensure that these children gain the confidence to overcome their difficulties, and to explore and develop their creative skills.

 

We realise that it is our immediate responsibility to take necessary activities to rescue our nature from the environmental impacts caused by the insecticide endosulfan.  We understand that the rejuvenation of the eco-system is a long term challenge.  The priority is to see how  social, economic and cultural sustainability can be established.  We recognise that this National Workshop CONCORD ’12 is an important step towards building a paradigm and action plans for the same.

 

We realise the importance of a collective and concerted process to coordinate the various rehabilitation efforts being taken up. We also realise that we need to establish a dynamic monitoring system to ensure the effective and timely implementation of the planned programmes.

 

With the above understanding that came up from the various discussions and recommendations during the National Workshop, the CONCORD ’12 declares the following…

 

ñ  That we shall undertake adequate measures to improve the quality of life of the surviving people.

ñ  That we shall undertake Short term and Long term measures to convert Kasaragod from a poison affected land to a poison-free land.

ñ  That a comprehensive and integrated health rejuvenation and treatement programme which is both sustainable and free shall be given to all the survivors of Kasaragod through the active participation of all sectors of the society.

ñ  That programmes to revive the confidence of the survivors to enable them to actively participate in their normal social life as well as activities will be undertaken.

ñ  That necessary projects for social rehabilitation will be undertaken for sustainable livelihoods to be established.

ñ  That programmes shall be undertaken to improve the quality of the educational and academic system.

ñ  That the BUDS Schools which provide alternate and special education for those children that cannot go to regular schools for various reasons will be qualitatively improved.

ñ  That a National Research Centre will be established to study the special problems and needs of the affected children and to develop adequate activities for their overall development.

ñ  That development and marketing centres shall be established to develop comprehensive livelihood opportunities that incorporate their full life span, through developing the creative skills of the survivors.

ñ  That efforts shall be take to put continued pressure and intervention to get all the orders of the National Human Rights Commission implemented.

ñ  That efforts shall be undertaken to put pressure on the State and Central Governments to allot adequate funds and support for the socio-economic and ecological rehabilitative programmes.

 

We, the people, who declare solidarity to the affected survivors of the endosulfan tragedy hereby commit that we shall take all efforts and interventions necessary to rejuvenate the ecology of Kasaragod,  to lead our surviving brothers and sisters who are leading a painful life into a life of confidence and dignity, and to lead them to be an integral part of the main stream of society, and to make them a natural part of the social, cultural and political life of our land.

 

 

Decisions on the Preliminary Steps taken

based on the Kasaragod Declaration of the National Workshop CONCORD ’12 conducted at Kasaragod during 22,23 July 2012.

 

  1. 1.  Task Forces has been setup for the Five focus areas. Further coordination will continue under the Endosulfan Victims Relief and Remediation Cell.  A report will be produced in one months time.
  2. 2.  Based on the Central Govt Order that MPs fund can be used for social rehabilitation activities, Sri P Karunakaran MP has allotted Rs. 1 crore for the Endosulfan victims rehabiliation work.
  3. 3.  The Central Government will be requested to declare the Kasaragod Endosulfan Disaster as a National disaster like the Tsunami or Bhopal disasters, and to request each MP to donate Rs. 25 lakh each to the Relief fund for Kasaragod victims.
  4. 4.  A separate delegation will go to the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister requesting the participation and funding of the Central and State Governments in the relief programmes.
  5. 5.  A project proposal will be prepared within two months for a National Relief and Rehabilitation Research Centre, and submitted to NABARD and adequate funds shall be ensured.
  6. 6.  The Endosulfan relief and remediation Cell shall be the coordination agency for all the rehabilitaion programmes happening in Kasaraod by various agencies including the Governemnt agencies and individuals.
  7. 7.  The District Planning Committee shall ensure that all the LSGs  incorporate a biodiversity restoration and rejuvenation programme in their 12th Five Year plan formation. The DPC Chairman and Convener will take the responsibility for the same.
  8. 8.  The Kasaragod Jilla Panchayath will expand and continue the special projects THANAL and Adhijeevanam for the affected victims.

 

 

 

 

 

After endosulfan, people fear DNA mutation now

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/After-endosulfan-people-fear-DNA-mutation-now/articleshow/11623862.cms?intenttarget=no

KOCHI: A new study on endosulfan has shown that the prevalence of health problems in general had noticeably come down to as low as 0.38% for females in the 15-30 year age group in Cheemeni in Kasargod, but chances of these symptoms manifesting through DNA mutations in the offspring persist.

The findings are part of a study conducted by the Asian Journal of Epidemiology titled ‘An Epidemiological Study on the Health Effects of Endosulfan Spraying on Cashew Plantations in Kasargod District, Kerala’.

The report was prepared by Asha Embrandiri, Rajeev P Singh, Hakimi M Ibrahim and Anisa B Khan, department of environmental sciences, Pondicherry university.

The survey was conducted from December 2008 to March 2009 in five panchayats surrounding three of the Plantation Corporation of Kerala (PCK) cashew farms in Kasargod namely Enmakaje, Kumbadaje, Cheemeni, Pullur-Periya and Muliyar.

Seven years after PCK banned the use of endosulfan, researchers visited some affected regions to ascertain the result.

Around thousand respondents were selected randomly for a survey in which it was found that 0-30 age-group recorded the highest cases of mental retardation (74.5% male and 74.1% female). Also in the 0-14 age-group 46% males and 42.5% females had congenital anomalies whereas in the 15-30 age group, the figures were 30.4% for males and 31.7% for females.

Revealed: the child victims of pesticide poisoning in India

Peter Caton and Beatriz Lopez

http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/1189820/revealed_the_child_victims_of_pesticide_poisoning_in_india.html

4th January, 2012

Endosulfan is the pesticide of choice for farmers in rural India trying to control insects threatening cashew nut and other crops – but the chemical can have devastating health impacts

A panorama of rolling hills distinguishes the landscape of Kasaragod, a northern district of the Indian state, Kerala. With fertile land and an abundance of water, the cashew industry once flourished amidst dense vegetation, red earth and coconut palms.

These forested valleys are home to rural communities still living off the land, such as Mamatha’s family who collect betel-nuts as their main source of income. The household of six adult siblings and their elderly father live in a small, overcrowded cottage, which they may have to sell to fund a series of operations that will remove the tumour distorting Mamatha’s face. Mamatha, her family claim, is an endosulfan poisoning victim.

Endosulfan, an organochlorine insecticide, acts as a contact poison for a wide variety of insects and mites and has been used extensively worldwide on food crops like tea, fruits, vegetables and grains. Famed for its capacity to increase agricultural productivity, endosulfan has been officially banned in the state of Kerala for 10 years. In the 25 years leading up to the state ban, indiscriminate aerial spraying of cashew plantations contaminated the soil, water sources, wildlife and the communities of the Kasaragod District.

Already banned in over 80 countries, 127 represented governments agreed on a worldwide ban at the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) in April 2011. The Indian Government delegation contested the otherwise unanimous consensus. Facing huge financial losses due to the national agricultural industry’s heavy reliance on endosulfan, an 11-year phase out period with financial support was negotiated, giving Government appointed scientists time to develop a cost effective, alternative pest control.

However, last May, the manufacturing and usage of endosulfan in India was forced to a complete halt. Indian Chief Justice Sarosh Homi Kapadia of the Supreme Court imposed an eight week national blanket ban on the pesticide until a conclusive study by an expert committee on whether toxicity levels of endosulfan was safe to humans and the environment had been submitted.

Controversially, the current national Union Agricultural Minister, Sharad Pawar, announced shortly after the ban that there was a lack of evidence to prove a negative impact on humans. He also denied anti-endosulfan protest from any state governments other than Kerala and neighbouring state Karnataka. Kerala and Karnataka were the only states where endosulfan was aerially sprayed, an approach not scientifically investigated at the time.

The pesticide victims in Kerala

In Kasaragod, the Keralan district worst hit by endosulfan poisonings, Leelakumari Amma, is employed as an agronomist by the Agricultural Department of her local Panchayatt. She has observed an abnormal amount of illnesses in the community, which triggered her suspicions about chemical poisoning.

‘People had to walk through these fields that had been sprayed as there was no transportation. Children walked through the fields. There were no butterflies; there were no birds; so it was concrete evidence for my suspicions.’

Dr Mohana Kumar, an activist and medical practitioner associated with Pesticide Action Network (PAN), says companies have violated human rights by not protecting water sources when aerially spraying the pesticide.

One former employee of a company using endosulfan, Achuthan Manniyeni, used to be responsible for preparing the pesticide for spraying in his area. He says the concrete mixing tub was located in a cashew field several metres from one of the district’s water basins, which was not covered properly during the aerial spraying.

It was also common practice to dump empty endosulfan cans in a nearby well. Gloves, soap and towels were not supplied to the employees according to Achuthan. Furthermore, he claims endosulfan was freely handed to local farmers after the ban was imposed on Kerala, and that one of his colleagues was contracted to bury containers on a nearby mountain in order to get rid of excessive stock.

The exact location is unknown as all of his five colleagues have since died from symptoms associated with endosulfan poisoning. Large quantities of the pesticide still remain undisposed of in Kerala, 10 years after it was banned in the state.

Local cashew farmer Ashraf disagrees that endosulfan is hazardous to human life, citing his own health as an example. He blames natural causes for the ailments people have been suffering.

‘Endosulfan has been produced to protect the trees from bugs. An increase of insects can also be harmful to the people.’ His business partner Mohammad says, ‘They say endosulfan has harmed a lot of people, but when you look at the economic side it is a pathetic situation.’ He recalls that when the cashew crops were treated with endosulfan, farmers collected an average of 700 kilos per day. Untreated, they collect 15 kilos to 30 kilos per day. ‘People have lost a lot of income’.

Until recently, endosulfan manufactured in India constituted 70 per cent of the global market, with its total exports valued at about Rs 1.8 billion (£22,000,000). Since the Green Revolution in India, agriculture has become a big export with India ranking second worldwide in terms of farm output with almost 30 per cent of its booming economy coming from the sector.

The lack of a permanent nationwide ban in India has led to growing reports of smuggling across state borders, particularly from Orissa where the chemical is said to still be openly available in the state capital and in Madhya Pradesh where stock is being sold at a premium rate of Rs 500 instead of Rs 250 per litre.

Meanwhile, people neighbouring or living within the predominantly national government owned cashew plantations continue to suffer the consequences of what had became a highly profitable industry; satisfying the demand of western palates at supermarket prices.

The poisoned children

Medical data compiled by health officials in Kerala suggests as many as 4,270 people may have been poisoned by endosulfan, with over 500 deaths linked to the chemical. Campaigners and families blame endosulfan for causing neurological and congenital deformities in babies:

Abhilash Bhat, who is 10, rolls around with difficulty on a floor mat at home. His head weighs 20 kg, roughly four times the weight of an average adult head. Born with hydrocephalus, a rare medical condition in which there is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, his head has swelled to enormous proportions. The cranial pressure has shrunk his brain, causing total mental retardation.

His mother, Sreedevi had already miscarried two previous pregnancies and claims her first child died within 10 days from hydrocephalus. Doctors believed Abhilash would not survive and his parents were warned that conceiving another child would only lead to the same heartache: ‘We want another child, but we are scared.’

The high-risk operation needed to save his life may well bankrupt the family, who already struggle to make ends meet. Over half of their wage, earned from the collection and selling of betel-nut, is spent on medical and travel expenses incurred from Abhilash needing hospital treatment every three days.

Both born blind, sisters Rahina and Rasna are six and nine years old. Their parents Rajan and Rohina say that the difficulty of supporting two blind children with their minimal income earned through labouring work has forced them to separate the children. Rasna is now living with her maternal grandmother, while Rahina is partly cared for by her paternal grandmother who lives in the family home. After Rahina was born, they gave up on the prospect of a larger family for fear of conceiving another child with the same genetic disorder.

Is God to blame?

People were ignorant about the toxicity of endosulfan, believing in curses and ‘the will of God’. Sumitra and her husband Ganeshrao thought they had been cursed by the Serpent God Jataadhari and spent over Rs 200,000 (£2000) on religious rituals performed at a Hindu temple: their 16-year old daughter Soumya and 14 year old son, Arunkumar, would frequently experience fevers that eventually left them mute and crippled.

As the children are partially blind and deaf, they rely on smell to identify people and make simple gestures to have their needs met. Soumya drags herself across the home’s concrete floor as she is unable to walk. Rarely leaving their home and with no social services or physiotherapy, they receive little stimulation to improve their condition.

Sujatha was struck down with a reoccurring fever at the age of four which left her hospitalised on several occasions. At 28-years of age, her body has not developed properly and she has limited mobility in her limbs. Unable to support herself on her weak, child-size legs, she lives her life bound to her home.

Frustrated by her speech impairment, she speaks of her ongoing struggle with depression. Sujatha has no opportunity to marry and live a normal life, as she is completely dependent on her mother. Her mother explains that her energy levels prevent her from staying awake extended periods of time and that an exhausting menstrual cycle (3 times per month) causes her low blood pressure.

A year ago, a local youth group arranged monthly visits of a physiotherapist who is also an ayurvedic doctor, but her improvement has been minimal and she is still experiencing ongoing pain in her legs. Medicine was also received from a local government hospital for four months, but the home delivery service was suddenly stopped without an explanation. When questioned, the hospital explained they had run out of medicine. Sujatha was never clear what the prescription was for.

Gulabi lives in a small shack with her husband, mother-in-law and 4 children. An apparant endosulfan victim, she experienced her first symptoms after the birth of her second child. Her medical records say she has a ‘loco-motor disability’. Gulabi’s low blood pressure and weakness in her legs led to a fall which shattered her right femur. An operation to replace the bone has failed to improve her walking ability, and a lack of finance has prevented her from receiving follow up physiotherapy. The family survives on the Rs 150 (£2.10) per day her husband earns as a seasonal forager.

Another Bhopal disaster?

In an attempt to calm growing pressure, a compensation package has been offered by one major company involved in spraying endosulfan. A comprehensive package is also being launched by the Keralan State Health Department to be available in the 11 worst affected Panchayatts. Benefit cards are being registered under three categories; Class A, the worst affected victims, expecting to receive Rs 2000 monthly pensions (£27); an amount barely enough to cover medical expenses, let alone supplement the potential income loss of carers.

‘My greatest difficulty is not being able to leave my daughter unattended,’ says Sreeja, a mother of two young daughters. Her six-year old daughter Chaithany suffers from a severe neurological disorder and is unable to control her limbs or communicate. Sreeja is a fulltime caretaker, bound to her single roomed home, while her husband keeps the family afloat with menial labour; earning only Rs 250 (£3.50) per day.

In December 2010, the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission K. G. Balakrishnan went as far as comparing the endosulfan devastation to the Bhopal gas tragedy. Others like activist B. Ashraf from the Kerala-based NGO Thanal, call it a ‘government chemical warfare on its own people.’

Pesticide industry blames EU and NGOs 

Representatives of the pesticide industry dismiss the health concerns as a EU/Western ploy. The Pesticides Manufacturers and Formulators Association of India (PMFAI) has been reported as saying that the government was folding under pressure from environmental groups. ‘This is playing straight into the hands of vested interests such as the European Union, who have a direct business interest in the ban of endosulfan. The overall design of the EU stakeholders is to ban this popular low-cost, off-patent pesticide and replace it with expensive patented products.’

While Kerala suggested alternatives to endosulfan, all other 20 states have denied any knowledge of health problems associated with endosulfan; insisting it was the cheapest pesticide on the market and friendly towards pollinators. Suggestions were made that the ‘poisoning’ of humans, livestock and wildlife in Kasaragod was an isolated incident resulting from the aerial spraying of endosulfan in Kerala.

Pesticide manufacturers argued that possible causes for health problems within the region could be linked to inbreeding, iodine deficiency and radiation, and that all opposition to the use of endosulfan was politically motivated.

However, reports from Karanataka by consumer activists such as Sanjeev Arora tell a different story, ‘people are suffering from problems like congenital deformities, mental retardation and physical deformities. The impact is similar to those affected in Kerala’s Kasaragod village.’

According to official figures, 32,604 litres of Endosulfan was aerially sprayed between 1980 and 2000 on 850 hectares in Belthangady and Puttur Taluks in Dakshin Kannada, and a further 11,225 litres were sprayed manually in the region. Nearly 20 villages were affected. ‘Health conditions in these villages are scary,’ says Sanjeev.

Twenty-seven nations globally are said to still use endosulfan including several African countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda and Zimbabwe – making endosulfan is the third largest selling pesticide on the global market with a value of £191.5 million.

The danger now, say campaigners, is that, despite all the evidence against endosulfan, big business will be allowed to continue taking precedence over human health and the environment.

Six months after the interim ban was put in place on the production and sale of endosulfan, the Supreme Court is no nearer to reaching a verdict as to whether the ban should be made permanent, with no real solutions of how to appropriately dispose of stock either.

While the question of evidence remains – blocking an immediate, permanent national ban in India – Dr. Kumar puts conflicting scientific evidence into perspective: ‘You can argue anything because you cannot test on humans. You have to consider the circumstantial evidence.’

In the meantime, parents of victims like Carmina Costa, who has been promised a consolatory yet miniscule compensation, fear for future generations’ lives. ‘My prayer is that this should never happen again. So many children, so many mothers are suffering. This is my prayer to the government.’

All photographs supplied by Peter Caton. Words by Beatriz Lopez.

 

Supreme Court reserves order on exporting raw endosulfan

Author(s): Savvy Soumya Misra

Issue: Nov 18, 2011
Decision on exporters’ plea on November 21

Pesticide manufacturers pleaded for permission to export raw endosulfan on November 14 when the Supreme Court took up the case for hearing. The court, on September 30, had allowed the export of only endosulfan formulations  (chemicals combined with raw endosulfan) to countries from which they had received export orders prior to the ban on May 13 this year when the apex court had imposed a complete ban on production, use, sale and export of endosulfan.

The three judge bench, comprising chief justice S H Kapadia, Swatantar Kumar and K S P Radhakrishnan have reserved their decision on whether to allow the export for November 21. The pesticide manufacturers have been asked to file an interim application in this regard.

The petitioners in the case, the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), requested for an adjournment on November 14 as they wanted some more time to be able to respond to the counter affidavit that was filed by the Pesticides Manufacturers Association of India after the last hearing on October 10.

In it, the manufacturers have reiterated their stand that, though, it is alleged that there are health impacts of endosulfan in Kasaragod in Kerala and Dakshin Kanada in Karnataka, there is no causative link established between the pesticide and the reported health problems. The petitioners in their initial reaction had dismissed the claims as false statements and a deliberate effort to mislead the court.  They are now working on drafting an extensive reply to the affidavit.

On the same day, the Central government, filed an affidavit regarding a change in the terms of reference for the  Supreme Court appointed joint committee, comprising the agriculture commissioner and the director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research. “These terms of reference are for a long term study that the committee is supposed to do,” said Deepak Prakash, advocate for the petitioners.

The government wants the joint committee to explain the following in its long term final report: the extent of endosulfan’s impact on human health and the environment; whether its impact has anything to do with the way it is used; the extent of the hazard; the alternatives to endosulfan; if endosulfan is to be allowed then the precautions that should be taken; and if the pesticide has to be phased out and the manner and mode in which it has to be done.

The next hearing is scheduled for November 21.

Stockholm Convention

While pesticide manufacturers in India are trying to get the Supreme Court ban on the pesticide lifted, the international community is phasing out endosulfan. The secretary-general of the United Nations, acting in his capacity as a depository, issued a notification on October 27, stating that the international phase-out of endosulfan, with certain exemptions under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), will come into effect by the end of October next year.

The secretary-general has said that the parties to the Convention should notify the depository if they are unable to accept the decision of the Conference of Parties (CoP) taken in April that listed endosulfan for elimination with specific exemptions.

The CoP decision will enter into force for all parties, except those who have notified non-acceptance, on expiry of one year from the date of communication by the depository. India has already expressed willingness to join the phase-out over five years (extendable to 10 years).
The POP Review Committee of the Convention has already set up an ad hoc working group to review and identify information gaps on alternatives to endosulfan and to assess endosulfan alternatives.

Back home

The National Human Rights Commission has, meanwhile, issued a notice to the Kerala government for not paying adequate compensation to the victims of endosulfan in Kasaragod. The Commission is also planning to approach the Supreme Court for execution of its orders for paying Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of the victims who lost their lives or were rendered unfit due to the harmful effects of the pesticide.

The state government had announced an increase in the compensation from Rs. 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh to the victims and budgeted funds are being released. The state has sought the Centre’s assistance for payment of compensation as the state government alone could not pay the entire amount.
But it’s not  just the funds, the Oomen Chandy government has also issued a government order to reshuffle the district level relief and rehabilitation cell, keeping the civil society out of it. The cell is yet to be dissolved.

International phase out of endosulfan to begin next October

The international phase-out of endosulfan with certain exemptions under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants will come into effect by the end of October next year.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, acting in his capacity as depositary, has issued notification on October 27 asking parties to the Convention to notify the depository if they are unable to accept the decision of the Conference of Parties (CoP) in April listing endosulfan and its related isomers for elimination with specific exemptions. The notification has been published in the United Nations Treaty Collection on the Internet.

The CoP decision will enter into force for all parties, except those who have notified non-acceptance, on expiry of one year from the date of communication by the depository. India has already expressed willingness to join the phase-out over five years (extendable to 10 years). However, it can seek exemptions on use of endosulfan for specific crop-pest complexes. But, any such move would be infructuous if the Supreme Court confirms ban on endosulfan granted in the case filed by DYFI.

The Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee of the Convention has already set up an adhoc working group to review and identify information gaps on alternatives to endosulfan and to assess endosulfan alternatives.

Meanwhile, a few more studies have come out about effects of endosulfan on health. A joint study by M.S. Ramaiah Medical College, Bangalore; Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore; Fr. Muller Medical College, Mangalore; and Manipal University, Manipal, has found association between high levels of endosulfan in bone marrows of children and blood cancer. A Nigerian study African Journal of Biotechnology last month indicated harm to fish and potential risk to human health.

Endosulfan Poisons Indian Rivers Special

Kailasahar – Rampant use of Endosulfan is poisoning rivers in north east region of India – the world’s largest producer and exporter of the hazardous chemical.

Illegal use of endosulfan to catch fish has endangered lives of hundreds living along Manu – a trans-boundary river that originates in Tripura state in North eastern India. In order to make a fast buck, illegal traders are mixing the highly toxic pesticide in the river upstream. Once it’s mixed, the chemical is then carried by the current all the way down to Bangladesh where river Manu merges into river Kushiara.

The use of endosulfun has been disastrous on marine life of the river: several fish species have disappeared altogether, while many others have become extremely rare. In the list of the vanished species are Tiger fish, Dwarf Goonch and Ar – giant fishes that the river was once famous for. Even Sind Danio, Wallogo, Indian river shad, and turtles which were commonly found even 10 years ago are now extremely rare. There has also been a significant drop in the fish population by the locals.

Renuka Dutta, 67, lived for over 30 years in Durgapur – a village by river Manu. She says that use of poison to catch fish was always there. In fact it used to be an annual affair every winter, like a ‘community picnic’. She, however, had never heard of anyone using any synthetic poison or chemical.

“Every winter – around January/February, people used to collect vishlat – a poison ivy found in abandance in the nearby forests and extract the juice to put that in the river as due to cold fishes would not come to the surface too often. Once mixed in water, the juice would blind the fish temporarily, but would do no harm to humans,” says Dutta.

However, in recent years, endosulfun has replaced the traditional use of herbs. The frequency of use too increased. For example, in past 1 month alone, there have been 4 instances of river poisoning.

Amar Mitra, a local farmer and a fishing enthusiast says, “When poison ivy was used, we could see fish thrashing around in the water blindly. But now we see dead fish floating.”

Since fish curry and rice is the staple diet of the locals, the demand of fish is always high in the local market. With food prices going higher and higher, the chances of making a kill (a kg of medium size of fish can fetch as high as Rs 350) is drawing many people into this illegal practice, using endosulfan which is easy to buy and is far more lethal.

But this is not only causing havoc on the marine life, but putting the health of the locals as well as people downstream at stake.

No wonder, there has been a significant increase in the number of people suffering from water borne diseases such as dysentery and gastroenteritis in villages along Manu, as well as Deo – a tributary of river Manu which has also seen fishing by endosulfan poisoning. Once seen as ‘monsoon sicknesses’, now such diseases are also becoming common in winter, thanks to endosulfan.

Endosulfan has been banned or is being phased out in most countries, including the EU and the US. After years of resistance, in May this year, India also agreed to a phased out ban on the toxic pesticide, under an agreement signed by 127 nations of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/314131#ixzz1dEca7nDc

Endosulfan: UDF efforts on paper

After an initial spurt of enthusiasm, the United Democratic Front government of Kerala has slackened in its efforts to rehabilitate endosulfan victims of Kasargod.

The first step the UDF government took after assuming power was to double the compensation given to the families of endosulfan victims.

Almost five months later, the National Human Rights Commission has threatened to take the state government to the Supreme Court for not doing enough for endosulfan victims.

The Chief Minister, Mr Oommen Chandy, had even said the state government would bear the treatment costs of endosulfan victims.

However, the fact is that no money has been earmarked in the budget for the purpose. An endosulfan victims’ rehabilitation coordination committee with the agriculture minister as chairman was announced. But the committee is yet to hold even its first sitting.

There is also an ad hoc nature to the entire rehabilitation process. The Chief Minister, while increasing the compensation amount, was dipping his hands into the Rs 5 crore given to the previous Left Democratic Front government by the Plantation Corporation. The various other benefits doled out were met from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.

The reality is that the state has failed to create an institutional mechanism for endosulfan rehabilitation. A special assistance fund, for instance, has not been created under a separate head.The nodal officer appointed for rehabilitation purposes is still a mystery figure.

“The government order said a Dr Hashim is the nodal officer but there is no such doctor in government records,” said Mr Jayakumar of the NGO Thanal.

There is also confusion regarding the government’s stand on the issue. While the Chief Minister says endosulfan’s ill-effects can been seen elsewhere in the state, the agriculture minister, Mr K.P. Mohanan, says that the problem is endemic to Kasargod.

SC refuses to ease country-wide ban on endosulfan

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to ease its three-month old ban on the manufacture, sale and use of pesticide endosulfan despite an expert committee report favouring lifting the restrictions for all states except the worst-affected Kerala and Karnataka.

However, a bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar agreed to consider the industry’s request for permission to export the existing stock of endosulfan and asked the expert committee to study relevant material including international conventions to report to the court in three weeks about modalities for safe export of the pesticide stock.

“We cannot just export our health and environmental problem to another country,” the bench said when senior advocate Harish Salve said that many countries which were still using it be allowed to import it from India to save the industry from recovering the cost and be able to pay workers.

Additional solicitor general Gaurav Banerjee requested the court to permit a thorough examination of the controversy relating to the hazardous effects of endosulfan on health and environment.

He also said that banning endosulfan would not solve the problem for the farmers, who would have to look for an alternative pesticide. He said no one knows whether the alternative was equally or more hazardous to health and environment.

However, the bench said it would examine other issues later as it was focused only on allowing exports limited to the existing stocks and that too only of that quantity for which the industry has firm orders from other countries.

It also asked the committee to suggest an environmentally safe mechanism for disposal of the pesticide that remained in India after meeting the export commitments.

The expert committee jointly chaired by the director-general of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Agriculture Commissioner of India in its interim report to the court found ample proof of health disorders among people and damage to the environment to recommend enforcement of the SC’s total ban on use of endosulfan in Kerala and Karnataka. The other states could be allowed to resume its use, it had recommended.

On May 13, the court had banned use of endosulfan across the country while directing the expert committee to report on the future course of action. The team of experts headed by ICMR DG V M Katoch and Agricultural Commissioner Gurbachan Singh conducted field studies and spot visits.

The team concluded: “The major users of endosulfan based on 2009-10 data including Haryana, Punjab, Bihar and Maharashtra did not report any negative effect of endosulfan use on crops, human health and water with the exception of Kerala and Karnataka.”

The committee said a nation-wide study on the harmful effects of endosulfan could take up to two years. The report came in response to the court’s queries on a PIL filed by the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), which had sought a ban on endosulfan.