ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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An Evidence-based Inquiry into the Endosulfan Tragedy in Kasaragod, Kerala

An Evidence-based Inquiry into the Endosulfan Tragedy in Kasaragod, Kerala

A review of the literature on the toxicology of endosulfan and assessment of the various pesticide-regulating agencies worldwide, as well as a statistical analysis of the medical camp data and primary data of the 2015 Kerala Disability Census, is carried out to elucidate possible evidence for higher prevalence of disabilities and disorders in the endosulfan-sprayed areas in Kasaragod, Kerala. The enquiry does not indicate a higher prevalence of the health problems in the endosulfan-sprayed areas in Kasaragod, compared to the unsprayed areas in the place and elsewhere in Kerala.

 

It is known that aerial spraying of endosulfan in the cashew estates of Kasaragod, Kerala, over a period of 20 years, caused severe health hazards and deaths. Many consider the endosulfan tragedy as equivalent to the Bhopal gas tragedy. The Calicut Medical College and the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad have conducted epidemiological studies in the affected area and the results are available in the public domain. The Kerala State Department of Health and Family Welfare classified 6,728 persons with different types of diseases as “endosulfan generated,” and 779 deaths were recorded as due to endosulfan poisoning (GoK 2019). The 6,728 persons who are included in the endosulfan victims’ list are being provided with a monthly pension, lump sum financial assistance to the tune of `2 lakh to `5 lakh, free ration, financial aid for all medical treatments, moratorium on loan repayments, free houses, etc. Hitherto, `281 crore has been spent for the welfare and rehabilitation of the victims of the endosulfan tragedy by the Government of Kerala (GoK), in addition to `220 crore by the National Bank for Agriculture Rural and Development (NABARD). The rehabilitation package ordered by the Supreme Court will be implemented at an additional cost of `220 crore. However, a large section of the media, public and the intellectuals believe that the pesticide might afflict future generations and the compensation offered is insufficient, and hence, they support strikes for higher compensation by the victims’ groups.

One of the reasons that this pesticide molecule was declared as a persistent organic pollutant (POP) by the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) in Stockholm in April 2011 was the campaign by the various stakeholders against the backdrop of the health issues seen in Kasaragod. Many non-governmental organisations, such as the Pesticide Action Network, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in New Delhi, and Thanal (2009) in Thiruvananthapuram played a crucial role in the anti-endosulfan campaign globally. The Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PANAP 2008) reported the health and environmental effects in Kasaragod, stating:

The village of Kasaragod in Kerala, India, experienced sustained exposure to endosulfan as a result of 20 years of aerial spraying of a nearby cashew nut plantation. Endosulfan was the only pesticide used. Twelve streams used by the villagers originated in the plantation and were subsequently found to have contaminated sediment and water throughout the year (outside the spray season), as a result of endosulfan’s persistence in soil and the soil being carried to the streams by storm runoff. Residues were still detected in the water and pond sediments 1.5 years after spraying ceased. One sample contained endosulfan at 391 times the maximum permissible level. The villagers were also directly exposed to spray drift. Numerous congenital, reproductive, long term neurological and other symptoms were experienced. One hundred and ninety seven cases were documented from just 123 households. Chronic morbidity was 70% higher than the norm.

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Updated On : 9th Oct, 2021

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