Kerala HC bans endosulfan, final decision awaited

Published: Sunday 15 September 2002

-- Environmentalists and inhabitants of Padre village have finally tasted success. The Kerala High Court has banned the use of endosulfan -- the toxic pesticide, which has adversely affected the environment and the lives of people in the Kasaragod district of the state. The order was passed, pending a final decision from the Central Insecticides Board (cib) of the Union government. The edict clearly states that endosulfan cannot be used in any of its formulations or under any of its brand names.

In August 2001, the Kerala government had suspended the use of endosulfan. But much to the consternation of activists and local residents, the state government chose to lift the ban in March 2002. "This decision has come as a sweet victory for the people of Kasaragod district, who have suffered from severe health problems because of the use of endosulfan," says Shree Padre, a freelance journalist who has been spearheading the endosulfan victims' campaign.

But the final decision about the fate of the pesticide has been left to the cib. An expert group was formed to study the pesticide at the 221 st meeting of the registration committee of the cib, held in April in New Delhi. The committee members heard the views of endosulfan manufacturers, but surprisingly, no victims of the endosulfan tragedy or civil society groups were invited to present their side of the story. In fact the expert group, on whose decision probably rests the fate of this pesticide is headed by O P Dubey, a staunch defender of endosulfan. Dubey is the assistant director general (plant protection) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. At a conference, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry in March 2002, Dubey criticised individuals and organisations, who have blamed endosulfan for the Padre tragedy.

Dubey's remarks have distressed activists fighting against the deadly pesticide. "We cannot expect anything from a group headed by a biased person," rues Jayakumar C, coordinator, Thanal, a Thiruvananthapuram-based non-governmental organisation.

Pesticide makers, led by Pradeep Dave -- the head of Pesticide Manufacturers and Formulators Association of India are a happy lot today and say that they will readily accept the findings of the expert group. The industry's confidence may well be a giveaway of its already having an inkling about the outcome of the expert group's report.

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