The recommendations of 100 alternatives to endosulfan, approved by the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants on October 18, should be an eye-opener for governments and agricultural scientists who were arguing that there were no cheap alternatives.
It is notable that the Committee has also recommended non-chemical alternatives which could indeed work out to be a cheap alternative. This is the first time that a Review Committee of the Stockholm Convention recommends non-chemical alternatives to a chemical proposed for elimination under the Convention.
The Union Agriculture Ministry has long been arguing that there is no alternative to endosulfan and hence it should be banned only in Kerala and Karnataka where intensive use had affected the health and well-being of people. However, evidence is emerging that endosulfan was indeed causing harm to people in other States such as Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Punjab also. It is high time that the ministry looked at the alternatives suggested by the Committee and promoted ecosystem-based approaches on pest management as well as technical interventions using natural plant extracts in a big way.
The Kerala government has the responsibility to present the findings of various studies and the recommendations of the Committee before the Supreme Court which is considering the case for ban on endosulfan across the country. It is not clear whether the Court has changed its earlier view that no more studies are needed to establish the link between endosulfan and the health effects on people. However, it apparently want expert opinion on nation-wide ban. It is notable that India is already committed to phase out of endosulfan being a party to the Stockholm Convention.