Monday, April 4, 2011

Survey identifies 4,000 victims of Endosulfan

Survey identifies 4,000 victims of Endosulfan
Roy Mathew

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Evidence is mounting on the ill-effects of Endosulfan sprayed on cashew plantations in Kasaragod district, even as the Union government continues to be ambivalent on the issue.

A survey done by the Health Department has identified nearly 4,000 victims after screening 16,000. The household survey and the screening done in 11 affected panchayats during December and January identified 3,937 victims, besides 336 in nearby panchayats. The numbers are likely to go up at least by 500 as the Health Department continues to receive complaints about non-inclusion on the list. The survey and accompanying studies officially confirmed the extent of damage done by the pesticide, which the Centre denies.

Mohammed Asheel, Assistant Nodal Officer of the Sneha Santvanam project, which is overseeing the remediation programme for the victims, says new cases will continue to be reported as the effects of Endosulfan will persist for another 20 years. The department has constituted an expert team to screen fresh cases.

Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar had maintained in Parliament that some States had opposed a national-level ban on Endosulfan. However, Right to Information activists have found out that no State government had so far written to the Centre opposing a ban. Only a few farmers and the ‘Endosulfan lobby' had argued against the ban. The Banerji Committee and R.B. Singh Committee, appointed by the Union government, had advised the government against use of Endosulfan near waterbodies.

Endosulfan is a broad-spectrum organochloride insecticide, which is very toxic to organisms and the environment. Studies in India and abroad had detected its residues in nearly 5,000 most widely consumed foods, including fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. High levels of residues were detected in all samples of cauliflower and brinjal taken in Ranchi (Jharkhand) in 2005. It has been found in grapes, guava, rice and mangoes in India (research studies by Shahi et al, Kumari et al, Singh et al, Jayashree and Vasudevan).

While acute toxicity from the chemical can cause death and several other problems, chronic exposure of smaller quantities of pesticide over a long period hits the immune, endocrine, reproductive and nervous systems, causing a wide range of problems. The health survey showed that 526 victims of Endosulfan in Kasaragod district were bedridden.

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