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Church push for pesticide ban in India: The Church of England Newspaper, May 13, 2011 p 8. May 15, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Environment.

Bishop Thomas K Oommen of Central Kerala

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders in India have called upon the government to ban the pesticide Endosulfan, saying its health hazards far outweigh its benefits to farming.

However, India’s agriculture ministry — which manufactures the pesticide via the government-owned Hindustan Insecticides Ltd — claims there is no scientific evidence the chemical agent is harmful to humans, and has so far resisted local and international pressure to stop production.

In a 20April statement Bishop Thomas K Oommen of Central Kerala, the chairman of the Church of South India’s Ecological Concerns Committee, urged the Union Ministry for Environment and Forests to ban Endosulfan.

While the pesticide is still used in India and China, over 80 countries, including the EU, Australia and New Zealand, have banned its manufacture and use in response to concerns over potential for accumulation in the soil its acute toxicity.

In 2001, aerial spraying of Endosulfan was suspected in a rash of birth defects in Kerala. The state government banned the use of the substance, but under pressure from industry the ban was rescinded. In 2006, the state government paid compensation of Rs 50,000 (£700) to the next of kin of 135 people identified as having died from Endosulfan exposure in Kerala. In December 2010 the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recommended banning the chemical, but the agriculture ministry declined to act.

However on 29 April, the agriculture ministry expressed its inability to clamp down on the pesticide to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) at a high-level meeting. The NHRC had recommended its ban in December 2010.

The Conference of Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants agreed to a ban on Endosulfan to take effect by mid 2012. In 2006 India signed the global environmental treaty and is bound by last week’s decision. However, certain uses of the chemical have been granted an exemption for five years, and enforcement of the ban is problematic.

In a letter read out to churches across his diocese on Easter Sunday, Bishop Oommen asked Christians to join him in implementing as 12-point programme of environmental stewardship.

He outlined a plan for rainwater harvesting projects for Church schools and institutions, the planting of vetiver grasses around church properties to control soil erosion and water loss, a ban on plastic cups and bags at all church functions, the encouragement of “eco-clubs” among school children, and encouraging farmers in the diocese to end the use of pesticides and hormones and switch to organic farming.

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