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Special: A look back at Kerala’s endosulphan disaster

Valiya Chirakula Pakshikal (Birds With Large Wings), directed by Dr. Biju, has been declared 2015’s Best Film on Environment. It explores the disastrous environmental and public health consequences of pesticide use, based on real-life events in Kasargode, Kerala. On this occasion, here’s a look back at the manmade disaster that continues to haunt Kasargode residents.

Endosulfan: How it affected Kerala
Abhijit Thampy
A brief primer on the endosulphan disaster

Valiya Chirakula Pakshikal (Birds With Large Wings)
The film is a partially fictionalized representation of the environmental disaster caused by the misuse of endosulfan pesticide in Kasaragod District of Kerala in India. This disaster was caused by nearly two and a half decades of endosulfan use on government-owned cashew plantations. The film explores the disastrous environmental and public health consequences of the pesticide misuse. It also concentrates on those health-related effects of endosulfan misuse, that persist to this day.

INSIDE STORY: How endosulfan poisoned Kasargod
Beatriz Lopez and Peter Caton, Rediff.com
British photographer Peter Caton and Beatriz Lopez visit Kasargod district in north Kerala, whose residents have been plagued by the spraying of endosulfan pesticide, the use of which was recently banned by the Supreme Court of India. From families completely breaking down to pushing innocents into the dark well of irrecoverable diseases, the endosulfan menace has often been described as equally devastating as the Bhopal gas tragedy.

Kerala versus Endosulfan
KK Shahina, Open Magazine
Kerala’s role has been pivotal in the movement against endosulfan in India… And the reasons are clear. The Indian government was clearly against a ban. India has a monopoly in making and selling endosulfan. Current worldwide production is estimated at 18,000–20,000 tonnes a year, of which Indian pesticide companies account for about 60 per cent. Till early 2000, the European Union was the largest producer, but then it banned endosulfan and began to phase it out. At the Geneva conference, India was in an absolute minority. Forced into a corner, it finally put aside its decade-old resistance to the ban and agreed on a compromise. But not before it had done its damnedest to scuttle it.

Defending the Indefensible: Endosulfan and the Indian Chemical Industry
Meriel Watts, PAN Asia Pacific
Endosulfan is a highly toxic pesticide that accumulates in the food chain and in humans, travels long distances, and breaks down very slowly in the environment. The Indian chemical industry is the world’s largest producer of endosulfan. As scientific evidence mounts of their product’s toxic impacts, the Indian industry has realized that endosulfan cannot be defended on scientific grounds. Instead the industry has resorted to a variety of tactics to prevent global action needed to protect humans and the environment.


Kerala’s Endosulfan Tragedy: Did it really happen? A lesson in how India handles scientific debate
Priyanka Pulla, Open Magazine
As much as activist and political groups want endosulfan to be India’s DDT, it is far from proven that the pesticide indeed caused the diseases seen in Kasargod. It is not even proven that Kasargod suffers from a higher incidence of these diseases. As of today, the endosulfan issue is more of a political debate than a scientific one. Several of the people being compensated today have diseases that have nothing to do with endosulfan, such as deafness and diabetes. Government doctors admit this, saying they experience pressure to include people in the endosulfan- affected list.

Kerala’s Endosulfan Ban—The science that never got discussed
Priyanka Pulla,
In the case of the endosulfan ban, there were two separate questions—a) Were the diseases in Kerala caused by endosulfan? b) If they weren’t, should India have banned endosulfan, invoking the precautionary principle? Should India have banned endosulfan?  My research made me realize how divided scientists are on this issue. Interestingly, the differences are mostly about the policy decision to ban endosulfan, and not about the scientific ‘facts’ this decision was based on. There was broad consensus on the properties of endosulfan. And one thing I can say for sure is that contrary to what environmentalists claim with so much confidence, it is not a ‘well-known fact’ that endosulfan is bio-accumulative and harmful to humans.

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