Pesticide jeopardy

a division Bench of Kerala High Court has once again directed the state government to conduct another epidemiological study in the cashew plantation areas in Kerala and trace out the factors responsible for health problems in areas such as Padre and Cheemeni in Kasaragod district.

The areas were badly affected due to a pesticide, endosulfan, that was sprayed on cashew plantations for more than 20 years. A 2003 study by the Ahmedabad-based National Institute of Occupational Health had clearly pointed out the link between endosulfan spraying and the severe illnesses in the area. Subsequently the Union agriculture ministry had banned the use of endosulfan in the entire state.

Nature Lovers Movement, Ernakulam and others had filed a writ petition in this connection.

An affidavit earlier submitted by the state government stated it had set up five expert committees since 2000. The committees found residues of endosulfan in samples of blood, water, vegetables, soil and milk collected from the area. Besides, they also identified health problems of various natures in the areas.

The experts did not directly attribute these health problems to endosulfan spraying but recommended permanent ban on spraying of the pesticide in the area, said the affidavit. The committees had also recommended strengthening medical facilities and rehabilitation measures for the victims of the spraying.

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