Do natural disasters deserve more attention than man-made one’s?

  • SumoMe

While, the threats of a nuclear fall-out, borne out of a tragedy that happened in the Fakushima Nuke Plant in Japan, started a debate about the positives and negatives of nuclear energy. The media completely ignored the protests and the cries that were being carried out (in fact, for the last 10 to 15 years) in Northern Kerala as well as Southern Karnataka to ban the Pesticide Endosulfan.

Perhaps, after the killer fields of Bhatinda, it’s now the turn of Kasargod and Northern Karnataka to prove to the rest of India that the so-called Green Revolution was after all, not a success as was being made out. In fact, a tragedy that killed people on one side and and gave profits to the pesticide lobby on the other.

Endosulfan is a “Persistent Organic Pollutant” of P.O.P, which can easily spread through soil, air and water. It is banned in more than 63 countries, including the European Union, Australia and New Zealand, and other Asian and West African nations, and being phased out in the United States, Brazil and Canada. In spite of this, the same is being widely used in the Cashew Plantations in Kerala and Karnataka as also in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. Apart from Cashew Plantations, Endosulfan is extensively used in the farming of other vegetables and crops like Tomatoes, Tea, Coffee, and some varieties of Rice cultivated in Andhra. One of the main reasons for its continued use is the fact that Endosulfan is pretty cheap and it impacts India’s economic interests as it is one of the world’s largest exporter and manufacturer.

Endosulfan has been proved to be the main cause for the majority of Children who are born with Autism and several abnormalities. Endosulfan exposure has also lead to delays in sexual maturity among boys, and several physical abnormalities. Endosulfan was the only pesticide applied to cashew plantations in Northern Kerala villages for 20 years and had contaminated the village environment.

As a fallout of the tragedy that is happening in Kasargod, Women refuse to get pregnant and resort to abortion. Statistics support this, as Kasargod is one district where abortions are on a high. Married women are either afraid to get pregnant or they simply don’t get, because of the high number of infertility cases. To complicate the social issues further, even men from other villages refuse to marry women from Kasargod for they think it is quite risky to marry a girl from this village.

Talking about statistics, about a 1000 people have already died in the past ten years and another 5000 odd people are still living with abnormalities and chronic illnesses. Most of the babies born in this district of Kerala have been bed-ridden, and the parents spent their entire hard earned money nursing them. The complexity of the problem is furthered with an assumption that Endosulfan affects people who have a protein deficient diet. True, in a poor country like India, it affects the poor and the malnourished badly. Perhaps this is the main reason why no such cases have been reported as their main dietary habits include Fish and Egg.

Inspite of all these happenings and a protest cry from the Left Government in Kerala to ban the Pesticide, the Government of India has been advocating the use of the same pesticide and is against the Ban put forward by the European Union. They cite the cost effectiveness of the Pesticide and warn of food inflation, if at all Endosulfan is banned and alternatives are used. Perhaps, as has happened with all other sectors, the Pesticide lobby has hijacked the Govt of India as well.

The utter disregard to this tragedy is evident with the fact the Union Government has not even acknowledged this incident as a disaster that is happening. It may be ironical that the National Disaster Management Authority, which is a body constituted by the Central Government, conducts seminars and workshops on Nuclear Safety and Flood Rehabilitation doesn’t even cite it as a disaster. The pollution of the waters and the air of a certain place in the country ought to be a disaster, and should be on an equal footing as a nuclear radiation fallout, but somehow, the thinking in the corridors of power have been baffling. In the age of the RTI, the NDMA has even gone to the extent of saying that the mandate of the NDMA is only to look into “Natural Disasters” and not “Man-Made” ones.

The Government of India, as also, the people who are against a ban on Endosulfan, argues that there is no proof that links the abnormalities to the use of Endosulfan. They further argue that a cheaper alternative to Endosulfan is not available, and any alternate pesticide would push the vegetable prices at least three times higher. Endosulfan industry is a 100 million industry of which, India is a major producer and exporter, and that may be one of the main reasons why India does not want a ban. While, in the end, at the UN backed Stockholm Convention comprising its 173 Signatory countries on Friday the 29th April, India managed to convince the other members that a total ban is not possible and that it should adopt a global phase out in the next 11 years, the villagers in the district of Kasargod and southern Karnataka, wait for their absolution, which would never come.

Prasanth Menon

The author is someone who gets his bread and butter from staring endlessly at the Computers. And frequently he Blogs too at http://shaanmenon.blogspot.com, or rather, we should say, Cogito, Ergo Sum. He blogs, therefore he exists. He mostly blogs about the movies that fascinate him, Books that help him keep alive and also those little musings, including what he thinks to be relevant political issues.

Image Source: [http://www.armageddononline.org/images/natural-disasters-list.jpg]

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