The Union agriculture ministry has asserted that forbidding the use and manufacture of endosulfan will not be viable because there is no scientific evidence to prove its harmful effect on human health. The decision comes less than a week ahead of the Conference of Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, which is considering a global ban on the controversial organochlorine insecticide.
On Tuesday, the agriculture ministry expressed its inability to clamp down on the pesticide to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) at a highlevel meeting. The NHRC had recommended its ban in December 2010.
The pesticide is used in several states but in the northern parts of Kerala, where it is sprayed aerially, it is known to have caused serious health problems. Consequently, Kerala and Karnataka have banned it. Internationally, it is prohibited in 73 countries, including the US, EU, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The meeting was held to review the implementation of the NHRC’s recommendations. The commission held discussions with representatives of the agriculture ministry, health ministry, environment and forest ministry, and Kerala government.
“The NHRC has made some recommendations on endosulfan as well as regarding the compensation and rehabilitation of victims. The Kerala government has responded. The Union agriculture and health ministries are waiting for reports from experts,” commission chairman K.G. Balakrishnan said.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) secretary Dr V.M. Katoch said at the meeting that an epidemiological study was underway in parts of Kerala and Karnataka, where endosulfan created serious health hazards, including cancer and autism. He added that the ICMR was associating with the Calicut Medical College.
“In the next two months, we will develop the formalities to conduct a study. The study itself will take more time,” Katoch revealed. The ICMR has constituted a committee to examine the National Institute of Occupational Health’s report on endosulfan.
The NIOH had said endosulfan could create health hazards if not used properly. “This committee will also evaluate the data generated by the medical college and help in planning further studies. It will be requested to examine the feasibility of conducting a study in five other states, including Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana and Karnataka,” an NHRC release stated. The commission asked the state government to expedite relief measures for the victims. “We need at least `342 crore to implement the NHRC’s recommendations. It won’t be possible without the Union government’s help,” Kerala health secretary K.S. Srinivasan said.
“The Union government claimed that there is no scientific basis for the action recommended by the experts of the Stockholm Convention or for the ban already imposed by other nations.