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.

Endosulfan unlikely to cause public hazard, Centre tells Supreme Court

Maintaining that Endosulfan is unlikely to cause any public health concern or hazard, the Centre has urged the Supreme Court to lift the ban imposed on its production and sale in May this year.

In its response to a petition filed by the Democratic Youth Federation of India, the Centre said that long-term use of the pesticidewas unlikely to present public health concern. The Centre made it clear that Endosulfan was not the reason behind health problems in Kasaragod in Kerala.

On May 13, the court, while banning its use all over India, directed the statutory authorities to freeze the production licences granted to the manufacturers of Endosulfan till further orders. The Court also formed an expert committee to go into all aspects of Endosulfan and asked the Centre to submit a report.

Enclosing the report, the Centre, in its affidavit, said: “There is an overall weight of evidence from in-vitro and in-vivo screening tests that Endosulfan is not an endocrine disruptor. It is reported that Endosulfan is either carcinogenic or mutagenic. There is no evidence to suggest that Endosulfan bioaccumulates.”

Further “it is noteworthy that a number of countries that have banned this chemical have done so as a precautionary measure due to suspected long-term effects on human health. Use of Endosulfan has been put on hold in Kerala also as a precautionary measure. The tragedy in Kasaragod was due to aerial spraying of Endosulfan. A number of countries that have banned Endosulfan have done so as they have very low level of agricultural activities.”

Clean chit

The Centre said that no study report had ever directly blamed Endosulfan for health issues. The report said: “Studies by the World Health Organisation in 2006 had given a clean chit to the pesticide.”

It said that the Stockholm Convention had recognised the fact that developing countries like India required cost-effective and safe substitutes to Endosulfan. “This means that India and some other developing countries will be entitled to continue producing and using Endosulfan for a period of 5 years, which can be extended for a further period of 5 years for crops for which the chemical is registered in India against specific pests.”

The Centre submitted that it would take a year to ratify the Convention. Thereafter, information on chemical and non-chemical alternatives to Endosulfan would be compiled and analysed by the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) and would be submitted to the parties for consideration.

The Centre said, in the April 2011 meeting of Stockholm Convention, India had joined the consensus for phasing out Endosulfan. The report of POPRC on cost-effective and safe alternatives would facilitate India to take a decision following its domestic regulatory and legislative processes.

The Centre said that since the views of all the States had been sought, a final view could be taken by the court after receipt of responses and inputs from the expert committee. The prayer in the writ petition for banning of Endosulfan was unnecessary, it said and sought its dismissal.

The petition comes up for further hearing on August 5.

Ban Endosulfan

Kasargode, Sunday 17 April 2011: Attacking the Union Government for the ‘antipeople’ stand adopted by it on the endosulfan issue, environmentalist Vandana Shiva has said that India was singularly blocking the proposed global ban on the pesticide.
Vandana Shiva said that Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar was not ready to ban endosulfan. “Sharad Pawar should not be the Agriculture Minister of India. It is because of the fact that Pawar is corrupt that he had to back out from becoming a member in the committee to frame the draft of the ‘Lokpal Bill.’
Sharad Pawar lied in Parliament that most of the states had asked him not to impose ban on endosulfan. He was hiding the fact that Kerala had already banned endosulfan,” she said. She emphasised that endosulfan will be banned and it is just a matter of time.
On the Jindal Steel sponsoring Rs 25 lakh to ‘India Against Corruption’ (IAC), under the aegis of which Anna Hazare staged hunger strike recently, she said that “a clean cause should have clean means” as well. However, Vandana Shiva said that she had full faith in the integrity of Anna Hazare.
Praising the efforts of the Kerala government in its fight against the deadly pesticide, Vandana Shiva said that the Kerala Government headed by V S Achuthanandan had been doing everything possible to fight against endosulfan.

ICMR amy give clean chit to Endosulfan

KASARGOD: The team of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which had visited the district to study the effects of endosulfan, has reportedly reached the conclusion that most of the diseases in the area are genetically related.
The people of 11 grama panchayats of the district have been living in a state of panic for decades which even affected marriage prospects of the youngsters there. Newly-wed couples opted for abortions.
There were also cases of couples going for divorce believing that their spouses might be carrying endosulfan residues in their blood.
The team led by Dr Vishwa Mohan Katoch, Director- General of the Indian Council of Medical Research, had dropped enough hints during his interaction with mediapersons and medical fraternity that the cases might be genetic disorders.
He had demanded that the medical community conduct a study on the genetic background of the victims.
The Indian Council of Medical Research had also suggested a study by the Kozhikode Medical College in this direction.
The Indian Council of Medical Research has reportedly reached the conclusion that endosulfan may not be the culprit after studying the reports of the all the commissions constituted to study the issue so far. Moreover, the medical team has got information that there was massive corruption in the spraying of endosulfan by the Plantation Corporation of Kerala.
According to a member of the Dr Achuthan Commission that had first studied the issue, endosulfan was not sprayed in sufficient quantity as recommended by agriculture experts.
The pesticide was sold to private farm owners in Karnataka and was aerially sprayed only in a diluted form. A member of the ICMR team had raised doubt that whether the diluted endosulfan would cause so much diseases in the area.

Companies had failed to surrender their registration certificates despite letters being sent to them by CIBRC.

Soon after the Supreme Court ordered the interim ban on endosulfan on May 13, the agriculture ministry issued letters to the different departments, the following day, for the compliance of the nation wide ban. Licensing Officers and Insecticides Inspectors were issued orders to implement the ban. Letters were sent to the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC) and the directorate of plant protection among other departments to ensure that there is an immediate ban on manufacture, sale and use of the pesticides.

As it turns out, the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, in a letter dated May 18, had directed all pesticide manufacturers association to direct all registrants of endosulfan to surrender their certificates of registration to the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee without any delay.

But till June 3, none of the registrants of endosulfan had surrendered their certificate of registration to the CIBRC. Following no response from the registrants, the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation has stated that the registration is now deemed to be withdrawn with effect of the interim order issued by the Supreme Court.

So now not only is the production, use and sale of endosulfan illegal as per the Supreme Court order, but it also now becomes illegal on the subsequent CIBRC’s administrative decision for compliance with the court orders of withdrawing registrations.

Second letter
Letters were sent to the pesticide manufacturers association like Crop Care Federation of India, Pesticides Manufacturers and Formulation Association of India, Confederation of All India Small and Medium Pesticides Association and Agrochemicals Manufacturers Association of India. However, the implementation of the ban still remains lose.

While the letters exchanged within the agriculture departments suggest that companies were taking their time to submit their registration certificates, endosulfan manufacturers like Excel Crop Care, soon after the May 13 order of the Supreme Court, went to the press saying that they had suspended the production and sale of the pesticide all over India.