World will be watching India as the conference of parties of Stockholm Convention meets in Geneva from April 25 to 29 to discuss, among other things, a global ban on pesticide endosulfan.

India was the only member country to take a stand against the ban at the Sixth Meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee to the Convention that recommended the ban last year.

Domestic opposition to India’s stand has been growing ever since. However, the Central government has not relented. A national convention was held in Kasaragod on Sunday to press the Central government to change its stand.

Already 81 countries of the world have either banned or decided to phase out endosulfan while 27 countries are still using the insecticide. There is strident demand for its ban in countries such as Philippines. The stand those countries would take on the Review Committee’s recommendation at the conference of parties is to be seen. As of now, 173 countries are parties to the Convention and about 20 chemicals have been approved for elimination, restriction or curtailing of unintentional production under the Convention with or without exemptions.

India exports about 50 per cent of its production of endosulfan and the manufacturers are pressing the Union government to oppose the move for global ban on endosulfan. They say that the ban would deprive the farmers of a cheap and effective broad spectrum pesticide.

However, non-governmental organisations and individuals campaigning against the pesticide note that endosulfan caused more than 150 diseases and abnormalities, many of them severe in nature. Health surveys under expert supervision had identified more than 4000 victims in Kasaragod district of Kerala alone, and their numbers are growing. More than 500 patients were bedridden while about 2000 needed assistance to move around. Studies have established higher incidence of various abnormalities among population living near the estates of the Plantation Corporation of Kerala where aerial spraying of endosulfan had been done for more than two decades. The insecticide was found to be persistent in the environment for years.

A chemical has to be persistent, bio accumulative and capable of endangering human health and long-range transport to attract ban under the Stockholm Convention which deals with persistent organic pollutants. A chemical is considered persistent if it takes long to degrade. It is bio accumulative if its concentration in the food chain increases with time. Long-range transport refers to spread across regions and boundaries.

Endosulfan is still being detected in the soil, plants and animals in Kasaragod district through it was last sprayed in the estates a decade ago. It has been found in human blood and mothers’ milk.