Concern over excess use of pesticides in pineapple farms

One of the pineapple farms located in the catchment areas of the Malampuzha dam near Palakkad.– Photo: K.K. Mustafah  

The recent surge in pineapple cultivation on the slopes of Akamalavaram hills bordering the catchment areas of Malampuzha Dam has started raising widespread concern in Palakkad and surroundings as cultivators are spraying heavy doses of pesticides like ethephon on the crops.  Lakhs of families in the district are depended on the dam for their drinking water needs. Residents fear the unregulated application of pesticides on pineapple farms would lead to contamination of the dam water.

Most of the private lands close to the catchment area and nearby forests were used earlier to cultivate rubber. It was only recently, pineapple cultivation started spreading in the region, especially on the slopes of the hills where most of the rivulets that contribute to the Malampuzha Dam originates. 

About 400 acres of land taken on lease from Emoor Devaswam by a private individual is full of pineapple cultivation now. Local activists say the lease period is over and the new mode of cultivation is happening in violation of the lease rules. With the monsoon picking up, the threat of pesticides mixing with drinking water is on the rise. 

“The indiscriminate use of pesticides in pineapple farms is also affecting adversely the fish wealth in the dam. Birds and animals depended on the dam and the contributing rivulets also will be affected,” says environmentalist Dr. P.S. Panicker.

Farmers say that they are now spraying 1.25 millilitre ethephon on 1,000 pineppale plants. In a hectre, they cultivate about 40,000 pineapples.  Activists say the illegal diversion of water from streams to pineapple fields is also on the increase.