Tamil Nadu

Move to limit use of highly toxic pesticides in the Nilgiris

Potatoes being harvested at a farm in the Nilgiris.

Potatoes being harvested at a farm in the Nilgiris.  

Horticulture Department take steps to promote organic farming

Efforts are on to limit and eventually eliminate the use of “red” and “yellow-labelled” toxic pesticides in the Nilgiris.

Water contamination

According to officials in the Horticulture Department, the pesticides marked with the two labels are known to be toxic to humans, and officials fear that they could contaminate the water systems of the Nilgiris, leading to further impact in surrounding districts, such as Coimbatore and Erode, where water from rivers and streams that originate in the Nilgiris are used for agriculture and other purposes.

“There have been reports that the use of toxic pesticides across the Nilgiris has led to increase in risk of cancer, lung and kidney diseases,” said an official.

As a first step, the panchayats in the district are being asked for their opinion on whether efforts to limit and ultimately phase out the use of toxic pesticides used for agriculture in the district is feasible.

Joint Director of Horticulture, Sivasubramaniam Samraj, told The Hindu, that efforts have been undertaken over the last two years to promote organic farming in the district. “We already have a substantial number of farmers switching over to organic farming,” he said. By switching over to organic farming, agriculturalists stand to gain in the long-run, not only in terms of their own health and welfare, but also ensuring better soil fertility in their fields, and lesser input costs.

Long-term impact

“We are concerned about the long-term impact of the use of chemical pesticides, which are known to impact the health of cultivators as well as the public, who can get exposed to the toxins by other means,” said Mr. Samraj. Discussions will be held with farmers’ associations to convince them to adopt organic farming practices, he added. There has been pushback from several farmers’ associations in the district, who plan to hold protests in the coming weeks, fearing that the district administration plans to place an outright ban on the pesticides.

“If chemical pesticides are restricted in the Nilgiris, lakhs of farmers will stand to lose tremendously, as many of the vegetables popularly grown in the district, such as potatoes, carrots and even cabbages require high inputs of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weed killers,” said a farmer. It would be unfair to only place restrictions on agriculturalists in the Nilgiris, while farmers elsewhere are allowed to use chemicals to grow their crops, he said.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 1:50:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/move-to-limit-use-of-highly-toxic-pesticides-in-the-nilgiris/article30428322.ece

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