Tracking decades-long endosulfan tragedy in Kerala

Down To Earth takes a look at one of the worst and longest-running pesticide poisoning episodes in India and how it culminated with the Supreme Court ordering compensation for victims

By Savvy Soumya Misra, Sopan Joshi, DTE Staff
Published: Friday 13 January 2017
(Credit: Savvy Soumya Misra/CSE)

The Supreme Court, on January 10, directed the Kerala government to pay Rs 500 crores in three months as compensation to over 5,000 victims of the use of endosulfan pesticide.

The SC bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar also asked the state to consider setting up a medical facility to provide treatment to victims. The bench added that Kerala can also approach the Centre, state corporations and other entities for the compensation amount.

Kerala has earmarked over Rs 180 crores as compensation to victims, reported The Hindu. The state has paid cash compensations ranging from Rs 5-2 lakhs.

Endosulfan pesticide was used widely on crops like cashew, cotton, tea, paddy, fruits and others until 2011, when the Supreme Court banned its production and distribution. The health effects of the chemical include neurotoxicity, late sexual maturity, physical deformities, poisoning, among others. People, especially newborns, have suffered deformaties, health complications and loss of family members due to exposure to the agrochemical.

Over 20 years of aerial spraying on cashew plantations in Kerala and other states has left many with mental and physical disorders. Studies have established linkages between aerial spraying of the pesticide and the growing health disorders in Kasaragod district. Over the years, other studies  confirmed these findings, and the health hazards associated with endosulfan are now widely known and accepted.

The issue came to light over decades with growing international opposition against Endosulfan. In February 2001, Down To Earth broke the story and continued to report the plight of victims for close to two decades . The Centre for Science and Environment, in 2001, conducted Endosulfan tests in Kerala villages and brought results to the public eye. Here's a glimpse of our detailed coverage.

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