Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Saturday, Jun 01, 2002
Agri-Biz & Commodities
Variety - Health
Mission from Manila flays endosulfan use in Kerala
KOLKATA, May 31
OVER the past 26 years, hundreds of villagers residing in the villages of Kasaragod district have been victims of the aerial spraying of the pesticide, endosulfan.
The inhabitants of the cashewnut plantation in the region have been suffering from various kinds of illnesses, which they say were not present before the plantations started operations.
People have also noticed the death of fish, honeybees, frogs, birds, chicken and even cows.
A fact-finding mission led by Dr Romeo F Quijano, Professor at the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, College of Medicine, University of the Philippines, Manila, which recently visited Kasaragod, has concluded that the occurrence of these illnesses was mainly due to endosulfan.
Consequently, the mission has recommended a permanent ban on the use of the pesticide and suggested that a comprehensive health and environmental survey of villagers likely to be exposed to endosulfan be conducted to determine the extent of the health and environmental damage that has already taken place.
The mission's report also suggested that the community's health and the environment be monitored for at least 10 years to determine the extent of the delayed effects on health and the effectiveness of the remedial measures taken.
Further, policy reforms to ensure adequate protection of health and the environment from pesticides and to include endosulfan in the list of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) targeted for global elimination have also been recommended.
The cashewnut plantation areas in the district are located on a slightly elevated hilly area.
Households get their water from wells or `surangas' after digging a few metres into the rocky hillside.
As early as 1979, a local farmer suspected that the aerially sprayed pesticides were causing the deformities and the stunted growth that had affected three of his calves.
In 1997, a medical practitioner in the area drew the attention of the Indian Medical Association to the unusually large number of serious neurological, developmental, reproductive and other diseases, including cancer, among patients from the region.
In the meantime, several surveys were undertaken by different agencies and a campaign was started against the aerial spraying of endosulfan.
Despite the growing protests, the Plantation Corporation of Kerala, a State Government undertaking and owner of the cashewnut plantation, continued aerial spraying of endosulfan, claiming that it was "safe''.
However, in August 2001, the Kerala Government ordered the suspension of the use of endosulfan but did not take any steps to treat those already suffering from poisoning.
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