Central government’s affidavit before Supreme Court on endosulfan

Environmentalists in Kerala’s Idukki district see a grand design in the Central government’s affidavit before the Supreme Court that seeks to allow the sale of endosulfan in the country except in Kerala and Karnataka.

The ban in Kerala, they aver, will not be effective if the pesticide is freely available in neighbouring Tamil Nadu. They point out that in the border district of Idukki, where cardamom is grown in large scales, highly toxic (red-labelled) pesticides are widely used even after their ban.

Environmentalist and social activist K.N. Sulaiman alleges that the government’s stance is surely to help the endosulfan company and definitely not the people. This calls for a parallel movement for a total ban on the highly toxic pesticide.

Cardamom sector

John Peruvanthanam, environment, says that in the district’s cardamom sector, it has reached a point where even the highly toxic endosulfan has turned ineffective. The only remedy he sees is a strict ban on all highly toxic pesticides including endosulfan. After its ban (introduced in Kerala sometime back), it has been noticed that endosulfan continues to reach the cardamom sector of Idukki with workers from the Cumbom and Theni areas being used as carriers. Though checking has been intensified in the Kumily and Cumbomettu border checkpoints, the pesticide still makes its way to the district through the porous borders of the district.

According to Mr. Peruvanthanam, hybrid varieties of cardamom are being cultivated in the district and these are highly sensitive to pest attacks. A high level of pesticide application, besides use of chemical fertilizers, is needed for their care.

Snakes disappear

Studies, he points out, have revealed that 76 species of snakes have disappeared from the area. The figures for other living beings such as butterflies and frogs are yet to be assessed. Water sources in the cardamom areas and streams and rivers in the district are found highly toxic. This has a wider ramification as the rivers from the high ranges are the main source of drinking water for the neighbouring Ernakulam.

Mr. Sulaiman says that the cardamom farmers could not be blamed for the use of highly toxic pesticides as the government policy itself is for promoting their wide use. It is only through government intervention that the ban will become effective. The vegetable farming community in the Vattavada and Kanthallur areas are also using highly toxic pesticides, he says pointing out the findings of recent studies.

Social activist Raju Xavier says it is now clear that the government stands for multinational companies and seems to be not keen on its social commitment. The endosulfan issue should be seen as one that affects the coming generations. A commission should be appointed by the government to find for itself how the highly toxic pesticides have affected the people in the cardamom plantation areas, especially at Vandanmedu, Mali, and Chakkupallom.

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