A committee constituted by the State government to study the after-effects of aerial spraying of the pesticide endosulfan in Kasaragod district has decided to prepare a report on the current status of the environment in the affected villages.
An assessment will be done on endosulfan residues in soil, water and human blood and the state of biodiversity. Besides, the economic, social and environmental impact stemming from past use of endosulfan will be looked into. The report is proposed to be prepared in about three months.
A recent meeting of the committee decided to establish the protocols for periodic monitoring of the changes in the endosulfan residues and do analysis to determine the changes at regular intervals. The committee desired to start the analysis at the earliest and enlist the laboratories of the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management and the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History to do the analysis. The Department of Chemical Oceanography of the Cochin University of Science and Technology and the Government Medical College, Kozhikode, too will be enlisted.
Though the protocols were to be ready in 10 days, its preparation is getting delayed.
Blood samples of some of the victims of endosulfan were analysed in the past for presence of endosulfan and its degradative products. These will be compared with the results of the present study. The spraying of endosulfan was discontinued in 2000 after about 25 years of use on the estates of the Plantation Corporation of Kerala in Kasaragod. Since the maximum half-life of endosulfan is nearly 800 days, only traces of the pesticide will be remaining in soil, water and living organisms now. However, higher concentrations are likely in sediments. There is also the possibility of bioaccumulation in fishes which will continue to move up the food chain.
Endosulfan or its degradative products are unlikely to be detected in flowing water now. If the pesticide has contaminated groundwater, they may be present in water drawn through “Surangams” (a special kind of tunnels cut into hillocks used for water harvesting in the area). Wells too may have residues in the mud at the bottom unless they had been cleared.
R. Ajaya Kumar Varma, Member-Secretary of the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment, who heads the committee, says that sampling will be done in 11 affected panchayats and any nearby areas that can have residues. Sub-groups of the committee will be in charge of different aspects of the study. They will interact with panchayats and health authorities in the district.
The members of the committee are: V.S. Vijayan (former Chairman of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board); S. Muraleedharan (eco-toxicologist, Salim Ali Centre); C. Jayakumar (director, Thanal, Thiruvananthapuram); Chandramohana Kumar (Department of Chemical Oceanography, Cochin University of Science and Technology); P. Jayakrishnan (Department of Community Medicine, Government Medical College, Kozhikode); Purushan Eloor (Janajagratha, Eloor, Kochi); and Sukanya (Community Health Cell, Bangalore).