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Alarming rise in use of banned pesticides

E.M. Manoj
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Red category pesticides are available at shops in the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border areas

Poison for food:A farm worker applying Furadan, a banned pesticide in the State, in his plantain farm at Noolpuzha in Wayanad district.
Poison for food:A farm worker applying Furadan, a banned pesticide in the State, in his plantain farm at Noolpuzha in Wayanad district.

This is the time when farmers in Wayanad start cultivating plantain for harvesting in next Onam season. This is also the time for many a farmer in the district to apply pesticides to protect their crops.

Though the sale of Red category pesticides such as Phorate, Thimet and Furadan was banned in the State two years ago, the application of such chemicals is increasing in the district in an alarming rate as they are available at shops in the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border areas.

The alternative pesticides available in Kerala are not effective to combat plantain diseases such as Pseudo stem weevil, Bunchy top, Sigatocca , Kokkan, and foot rot, and the attack of Nematodes and Root Mealy bugs, says a chemical and fertilizer dealer at Erumadu, a small town on the State border.

The pesticides such as Thimet, Furadan and Phorate are available at Rs.80, Rs.70 and Rs.75 respectively in Tamil Nadu and there are no government agencies at the border check-posts to monitor their transportation, he says.

Nobody can easily detect the application of a banned pesticide on the plants. It is difficult to find out the residue of the pesticide on the soil as it is applied on the axil of plantain leaves, says Dr. Girijan, senior scientist at M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation here.

The presence of the chemical on the plant can be ascertained only through a sophisticated lab test. The facility is available in the State only in Thiruvananthapuram.

It is also reported that many a banned pesticide was being used in the plantation sector too, especially in the cardamom and tea estates in the district. Six women workers of a tea estate in Thondarrnadu grama panchayat were admitted to the district hospital at Mananthavadi recently following poisoning while they were collecting tea leaves.

“When certain pesticides are combined their effect gets amplified and often we are compelled to apply these chemicals, which do not even have a brand name,” a tea estate worker at Mepadi said.

When the ban was imposed two years ago, the district administration had conducted raids in estates and seized a huge quantity of banned pesticides and herbicides, says Thomas Ambalavayal, secretary of the Wayanad Prakruthi Samrakshana Samiti. But now nobody is monitoring the situation, he says.

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