In a move that clearly favours pesticide manufacturers, the agriculture ministry has recommended that existing stock of the raw material used for making endosulfan should be used to produce more pesticide. The ministry has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying the stock worth Rs 31.36 lakh should not be disposed of as it can be used for “increasing crop production”. It has cited the high cost of disposal and the exemption granted under the Stockholm Convention to continue the production of the pesticide till the phase out period ends.
"The cost of disposal of the live stock of endosulfan by incineration shall be more than Rs 210.82 crore, whereas phasing out would not only result in saving this huge amount on disposal but would also save the product (stock) worth Rs 31.36 lakh, which would contribute to increased crop production," the agriculture ministry said in the affidavit filed on behalf of the Centre.
The Supreme Court had banned the manufacture, sale, use and export of endosulfan in India on May 13, 2011. The court had later allowed export of the existing endosulfan stocks, but the ban on its use, manufacture and sale within India continued. In April this year, the pesticide manufacturers once again appealed to the apex court that they be allowed to manufacture endosulfan from the stock of raw material, Hexachlorocyclopentadiene (HCCP), available with them and use it within the country. The court ordered the Centre to revert with a disposal plan of the banned pesticide. The Centre was given a three-month deadline.
Affidavit ignores health consequences
“It is evident that the Centre has completely ignored public health despite acknowledging the fact that endosulfan is a persistent organic pollutant. By permitting the production of endosulfan from the present stock of HCCP (2,657.96 tonnes), the government is seeking permission to produce almost 4 million litres of endosulfan. This is cruel,” said Mohammed Asheel, the assistant nodal officer of Kerala’s Endosulfan Rehabilitation Project. Endosulfan was banned in cashew plantations in Kerala's Kasaragod district after studies showed its aerial spraying was severely affecting the health of the people living in and around the plantations. Kasaragod is still reeling from the serious health impacts of 20 years of aerial spraying. It has affected nearly 4,280 people, killed 734 and made 66 bedridden, according to a 2012 state report. There are over 300 peer reviewed studies that show endosulfan has severe health impacts. http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/pesticide-makers-build-case-get-endosulfan-ban-lifted.
Apart from endosulfan, HCCP is the raw material for pesticides like chlordane, heptachlor, aldrin and endrin. All of these have been banned and cannot be manufactured, sold and used in India.
The Court also wanted to know the total quantity of endosulfan—HCCP, technical and formulation—available in the country and the disposal plan for these stocks. The agriculture ministry in the last three months held consultations with the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Department of Plant Protection, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the endosulfan manufacturers.
|Total stocks available in the country (in tonnes)
The Centre has recommended that no further exports of HCCP be allowed in the country. It said that endosulfan manufactures should, however, be allowed to manufacture endosulfan, with the available stock of HCCP, and sell it within India except Kerala and Karnataka (where the pesticide is banned).
The agriculture ministry said that all the states were willing to use the pesticide, as it was a cheap broad-spectrum pesticide which was very popular among farmers. The interim report of the Supreme Court appointed joint committee, submitted in September last year, reported that the pesticide was "safe to pollinators without any ill-effects on human beings, animals and environment". Earlier this year, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh had filed affidavits in the Supreme Court requesting permission to use endosulfan.
Specific exemption under Stockholm Convention
The permission to manufacture and sell the pesticide from the live stock will be in accordance with the Stockholm Convention. India is a signatory to the Stockholm Convention and India has been allowed the use of endosulfan under a specific exemption. According to the phase out plan, the country gets five plus one year along with an additional optional five years to phase out its stock. During the phase out, import of raw material is stopped and the available raw material is used to manufacture the end product.
“Why the hurry to begin manufacture? If we do not have the technical capability to dispose the pesticides or the raw material, then the government should ensure that the chemical is stored safely, indigenous methods of disposal is developed and then the stocks are disposed,” said Asheel.
Kerala launched Operation Blossom Spring, on June 17, to dispose the old stocks of endosulfan lying in the godowns of the Plantation Corporation of Kerala estates in Kasaragod district. The samples from the godowns have been sent to the Hindustan Insecticides Limited and the results are awaited. Once the state of the obsolete stocks is known, a decision will be taken on how to dispose it.