Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs Urged to Endorse Ban on Endosulfan

Press Release from ToxicsWatch Alliance

Chemicals, Agriculture, Health and Environment Ministry Must Put Public Health above Corporate Profit
POPs Emitting Incinerators Covered under UN’s Stockholm Convention
Alternatives of DDT to be Explored at COP-5


18/4/2011, New Delhi: Environmental health groups appeal to Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs to put public health above Endosulfan manufacturers’ blind lust for profit at any human and environmental cost. These groups and public health scholars across the globe will watch the stance of Indian government at the upcoming fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN’s Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (COP-5) to be held during 25-29 April 2011 in Geneva, Switzerland which will deal with Endosulfan pesticides.

Currently, there are twenty-one chemicals listed as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in the convention including DDT, lindane, PCBs and dioxins and furans and some brominated flame retardants. The objective of the convention is to restrict and eliminate these chemicals from production and use in order to protect human health and the environment. Unmindful of its adverse health impacts, India remains the world’s largest producer and user with more than 60 Endosulfan manufacturers and formulators.

India has already missed the deadline for transmission of National Implementation Plan for the treaty which it was supposed to submit to the secretariat of UN's Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) by 4th December, 2008. The Draft of the NIP is ready and was available for comments till April 1, 2011. The 235 page draft has emerged too late.
Endosulfan is one of the most commonly used pesticides in India in recent years, particularly on rice and cotton against thrips, stem borer, whorl maggot, case worm, boll worm and bud worm. It has also been used on cashew plantations.

India signed the treaty on 14th May, 2002 and ratified it on 13th January, 2006. On 28th March, 2006 submitted a Declaration saying, "Any amendment to Annex A, B or C shall enter into force only upon the deposit of its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession with respect thereto." The Convention was adopted on 22nd May 2001. It entered into force on 17th May 2004.

A chemical can be listed in the Stockholm Convention as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) when it shows that it persists in the environment, bioaccumulates in organisms (increases in concentration up the food chain), travels through the environment over long distances from the region of its release to other regions of the globe, and is toxic to the environment and human health.

On 26th August, 2010 nine new chemicals were added to the treaty when the amendments to the treaty entered into force. The nine new chemicals listed in Annexes A, B and C to the Stockholm Convention. The 12 initial POPs covered by the Convention include nine pesticides (aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex and toxaphene); two industrial chemicals (PCBs as well as hexachlorobenzene, also used as a pesticide); and the unintentional by-products, most importantly dioxins and furans.

Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC), a subsidiary to UN's Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants has reached its conclusions regarding environmental health impact of Endosulfan. Its conclusion reads: "The Committee reviewed and adopted a revised draft risk profile on endosulfan by which it agrees that the POP characteristics of the chemical warrant global action. The Committee will develop for endosulfan a risk management evaluation document that includes an analysis of possible control measures for consideration at its next meeting and final recommendation to the COP for its listing in the Annexes of the Convention. Endosulfan is a pesticide that is still widely used on many crops such soy, cotton, rice, and tea. It is highly toxic to humans and many other animals and has been found in the environment, including the Arctic." The POPRC comprises of 31 members of the POPRC. These are all highly placed scientists representing their regions around the globe.

In India, its production of Endosulfan began in 1996 and by 2004, India had become the leading producer of endosulfan, with three companies—Coromandel Fertilisers Ltd, Excel Crop Care, and Hindustan Insecticides Ltd. Excel is the largest of the three, with a reported capacity of 6,000 tonnes per annum. Hindustan Insecticides produces 1,600 tonnes per annum at its facility in Kerala (HIL 2008). The production figure of the third one is not available.

The Conference of the Parties (COP) for the first time decided unanimously to establish collaboration between the Stockholm Convention and its sister treaties on hazardous chemicals and wastes, the Rotterdam and Basel Conventions at its fourth meeting (COP-4) in Geneva.  It was decided for the first time that the expanded Working Group will comprise of the three chemicals and wastes treaties in sequential COPs. This will be visible at COP-5.

Environmental and health groups world over will closely monitor the outcome of COP-5 especially in the matter of Endosulfan. Governments have to decide whether or not they would put profit above people's public health, environment and inter generational equity.

The stance of India’s Chemicals, Agriculture and Health Ministry headed by cabinet ministers have been quite regressive because they are working manifestly under the influence of Indian Chemical Council, an industry body. These ministries have consistently prevailed on our structurally weak environment ministry whose head is a junior minister because he is merely a minister of state with independent charge.

Most recently, on 6th April Russian Prime Minister signed a governmental decree on the ratification of the Stockholm Convention on POPs which it had signed on 22th May, 2002. So far there are 151 signatories and 173 parties to this treaty. The text of the POPs treaty, Indian Chemical Council Position on Endosulfan and Reply of the UNEP is attached.

The POPs emitting waste incineration plants for energy generation which are facing bitter opposition in Delhi’s Okhla, Narela-Bawana, Timarpur and Gazipur reveals the non-seriousness of government towards public health concerns. Although India is a party to the UN’s POPs treaty it allows POPs laden dead ships at Alang beach, Bhavnagar, Gujarat. This also illustrates government’s apathy towards country’s environmental health.  In such a backdrop, environmental health groups wonder whether their government will endorse the inclusion of Endosulfan into the POPs list.

It may also be noted that the first assembly of the Global Alliance for alternatives to DDT to be held on the 26th of April 2011 in Geneva during COP-5 for developing and deploying alternatives to DDT for disease vector control through a harmonized registration system for new vector-control chemicals and products and explore non-chemical, non-commercial, community-based and environmental interventions. DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) is one of the most well-known synthetic pesticides. It was the first synthetic pesticide of the modern age. This was endorsed by COP-4 of the POPs treaty.

Underlining the gravity of the situation, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says, “POPs are chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in fatty tissue of living organisms and are toxic to humans and wildlife. POPs circulate globally and can cause damage wherever they travel. In implementing the Stockholm Convention, Governments need to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment.”

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), E-mail: krishna2777@gmail.com, Web:toxicswatch.blogspot.com, http://chm.pops.int/ 

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