An Understanding of The Endosulfan Contamination Conundrum in India
Endosulfan, also known as Thiodan is an organochlorine insecticide. These were used by farmers in various countries, especially in India. This insecticide is understood to have high levels of toxicity that negatively impact the global population. It is prone to acute poisoning potential for bioaccumulation, and role as an endocrine disruptor1. Adding to the reduction of the pests in the crops, it plays a huge role in the alarming reduction of the microorganisms that facilitate the ecosystem. Due to its chaotic repercussions, the Supreme Court of India has placed a temporary ban on the production and use of the chemical. It is also listed under both the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
Table of Contents
Status Quo In India
Regardless of the ban, the harmful effects of Endosulfan continue to exist. The situations like neuro complexities, physical deformities, organ damage etc can be seen. The chemicals enter the food chain ultimately impacting the genetic arrangement. Children are born with such complexities and with no pre-existing diagnosis.
When health problems erupted in the Kasargod District (of Kerala), they attracted media attention to endosulfan’s toxicity and health problems generated by its bioaccumulation. Amid protests and a National Institute of Occupational Health report, the herbicide was prohibited in Kerala as early as 2001. India resisted the proposal to outlaw the pesticide globally in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants of 2011 because of pressure from the endosulfan-producing businesses. As a result, the protest intensified. India continued to support its position, but the international conference ultimately voted to impose a universal ban, for which India requested a 10-year moratorium. The pesticide’s production, storage, sale, and use were later temporarily prohibited on May 13, 2011, and then permanently prohibited by the end of that same year as a result of a petition submitted to the Supreme Court of India. The apex court directed the Kerala Govt to pay compensation of 500 crores to over 5000 victims. India has pledged to sweep out endosulfan by 2017. The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has released a notification consisting of a draft ban order in May 2020 to ban the manufacture, sales and imports of around 27 pesticides.
Case Study In Kerala
The Plantation Corporation of Kerala sprayed the chemical on 12000 acres of Cashew estates which affected almost 20 villages in Kasargod District between 1975 to 2000. It poisoned more than 6000 people.
Protests took place at the Plantation Corporation godowns in the district. Protestors have called for the return of the chemical to the company for safe disposal. For about 20 years, a massive amount of the pesticide was stored in many godowns in South India. In 2012, when there was an Endosulfan leak in the old godowns, they were transferred to new godowns through a scheme
called Operation Blossom Spring. Authorities have mentioned that the chemical storage would be eliminated completely but no such action was taken. In 2001, tests conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment in Padre village In Kasargod confirmed the deadly effects of the usage of the pesticide. The Kerala govt passed a notion to ban the chemical in 2005.
The Kasargod District Legal Services Authority in Kerala was instructed by the Supreme Court to investigate the medical and palliative care facilities offered to endosulfan victims. The legal services authority was told by the bench to produce its findings in six weeks. The order came after victims, complained of the lack of health care infrastructure provided by the State despite the best efforts of the district administration. Later in a recent affidavit, the State Government informed the Supreme Court that 98% of the victims had received compensation.
BAIJU K.G V. Dr VP JOY2
[Contempt Petition (Civil) No. 244 of 2021 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 213 of 2011]
A contempt petition has been filed by the residents of Kasargod where it was stated that they were victims of the chemical Endosulfan and that they had suffered many injuries. A writ petition has been filed before this court by the victims. The apex court directed the state to pay the required compensation along with the feasibility to provide medical facilities with treatment to the victims facing chronic damage. It was mentioned in the petition that the government has failed to follow the order. Due to non-availability of the medical facilities, the victims had to travel around 600 km to Trivandrum to seek diagnosis. A compliance report dating 9th May 2022 was filed to the Govt of Kerala. Necessary actions were taken by the govt following the order. The apex court was disappointed stating that the Government of Kerala has done virtually nothing for five years. Despite the delay being appalling, the inaction is in breach of the orders of this court. There are a large number of victims who have not been compensated despite the order being passed 5 years prior to the date (2022). The court observed that most of the mentioned victims were from the marginalised chunk of society. “The onus of a public wrong can be attributed to the State if it fails to protect the fundamental rights of the citizenry and compensation can be awarded.”3 The writ petition has been filed as it was an infringement of Article 21 of the constitution which includes the right to life that further includes the health issue. The apex court released an order mentioning,
- As the payment of compensation was delayed to the 8 petitioners, an additional 50,000 Rs each must be paid to these 8 petitioners
- The chief secretary was to take monthly meetings to monitor the victims of the Endosulfan contamination, check if the medical facilities are being provided within a reasonable distance from the place of residence of the victims and that the compensation is being diligently provided by the state
- An affidavit of compliance must be submitted to the court on or before the net date of
What Is Happening Now?4
The Supreme Court on May 16 transferred the case to the Kerala High Court stating that they are in a better position to monitor and assess the scenario. A Bench led by Chief Justice of India; Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said the State has complied with the disbursement of compensation to victims. Now that the compensation has been paid, the matters that need facilitation are the medical and palliative care of the victims.
These are the pesticides that do not affect crops and fields negatively. They are completely natural and help in producing quality outputs. One of the best Biopesticides is Neem. Following Neem would be manure comprising vegetable waste, animal waste etc.
- Soft pesticides
Using soft pesticides with no aggressive amount of chemical composition is another safer option. It is used only to kill the pests and the chances of high amounts of chemicals entering the food chain will fall.
- Change in Methodology of Production
Green Revolution introduced by Dr Swaminathan further introduced us to methods like crop rotation, double plantation etc that create a boost in the crop yield. Although the revolution introduced other pesticides too, the transformation of production methodology does not require the said usage of chemicals.
Health V. Business
Although measures are being taken on a national and international level, Developments must be made in the monitoring of the chemical composition of the pesticides. This is a crucial step as it will have an impact on both the health and the livelihood of the farmers. Yield damage may or may not happen due to the high usage of toxic pesticides. There are 2 situations. If it does happen, then there will be an impact on the business which will ultimately have an impact on the economy. If there is no sign of damage, the impact will fall on the health of the consumers. The developments would only be seen if the imports of the pesticides are reduced. India is popular for making sustainable developments and making producing resources from scratch. Developments in these areas must be done by the government.
Written By- Rusheetulya Subramanyam
2 This order was given in 2022 with the next listing date being on 18th July 2022.
3 Nilabati Behera v. State of Orissa
4 https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/supreme-court-seeks-report-on-medical-facilities-provided-to- endosulfan-victims/article65783006.ece