Twice every year, between 1981 and 2000, a helicopter would whirr around the hills of the Western Ghats in Kasargod, a district in north Kerala bordering Karnataka, spraying endosulfan over the cashew plantations on the upper reaches. Children would rush out to take a look at the helicopter and the white spray would settle like mist on their heads and on leaves and shimmer in the sunlight. But that’s also when people associated the mist with something deadly—the unusually high number of people with infertility and congenital problems in 11 panchayats in the district.
In 2000, after a sustained anti-endosulfan campaign, the state government banned the pesticide. But the issue stayed alive and images of the ‘pesticide victims’ from Kasargod villages filled the public debate in the state. Recently, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and the Congress’s MP from Kochi, K V Thomas, reignited that debate when he said there was no proof to hold the pesticide guilty for the health hazards in Kasargod. Thomas’s comment came soon after India opposed a global ban on endosulfan at the sixth meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee to the Stockholm Convention. But the issue is an emotive one in Kerala and Thomas quickly changed his stand to go with the prevailing mood.
Last week, the Indian Council for Medical Research commissioned a study to look into the extent of the damage the aerial spraying of endosulfan over 4,696 hectares of cashew plantation, owned by the state-run Plantation Corporation Kerala Limited, had done to the surrounding villages.
… contd… http://bit.ly/keralatragedy