Stockholm: In a major change of position, India on Friday accepted at a world convention in Geneva that the pesticide Endosulfan is a health hazard. India is currently the largest exporter of Endosulfan in the world and it is used extensively in many states.
It has now agreed to a phased out ban with an exemption for some crops.
Activists too say this is a major victory but too late for those whose live have been destroyed at ground zero in Kerala's Kasargod, especially the poor farmers who widely use this pesticide because it's about 15 times cheaper than organic options.
"We are joining the consensus, but of course, we will look forward to adequate and timely work on safe and cost-effective alternatives being worked out in the phase-out period," said Gauri Kumar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests and head of the Indian Delegation in Geneva.
Eighty four countries had banned Endosulfan but India resisted it for the longest time, claiming there was no solid proof that it impacted human health.
But at the convention India was completely isolated, especially when China - also a user - supported a conditional ban.
It received a further setback when the Food and Agriculture Association of the UN stated it is hazardous.
In the run up to the Geneva meet, Kerala government had upped its protests where the Kasargod region had seen the maximum deaths among farmers who used the pesticide.
"It is happy news for us. But we are not only sticking to our demand for the ban. We are concerned about the victims," said Mohan Pulikodan, co-coordinator, Endosulfan Victims Support Aid Group.
Now India has bought itself more time to phase out the use and production of Endosulphan over the next 10 years. The biggest worries of the Indian government are a domestic pesticide industry worth Rs. 1,000 crore and the threat of a further rise in food prices - something the average Indian will not be able to stomach.