'The industry has no experience of disposing pesticides and the Ministry of Environment and Forest have not provided any definite procedure for the purpose'- This was the reply of the Supreme Court appointed joint committee on endosulfan.
The committee, jointly headed by the director general of Indian Council of Medical Research and the agriculture commissioner, has submitted its interim report on the best way to dispose the available stock of endosulfan in light of the ban on the manufacture, sale, use and export of pesticides. And the report suggests exports.
The industry body has said that all over the world pesticides are phased out by making an advance announcement of cut off dates of imports or manufacture in order to be able to complete exhaust the raw materials and the formulated product within the shelf life.
The apex court, on August 5, had asked the joint committee to prepare an interim report based on three-four questions on possibility of exports or disposal of endosulfan. This was done after the pesticide manufacturers and formulators association of India, through their counsels Harish Salve and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, requested the bench to allow exports of all stocks that is both for those for which orders had been received and for those where orders hadn't been received.
The Supreme Court had asked pointed questions on the quantity of endosulfan available in the country, countries to which exports can be made and also the possibility of disposing off the pesticides.
At present India has export orders for 1734 MT of technical grade endosulfan and 292.5 KL of formulation and the interim report suggests exporting them. As per the available data, the total amount of technical grade endosulfan available is 1090.596 MT while the available formulation is 2698.56 KL and 60.625 MT of dust. In addition, raw material in the form of hexa chloro cyclo pentadiene (HCCP) which is also lying with the manufacturers is equivalent to 4071.21 MT of technical grade endosulfan.
The industry, in a meeting called by the agriculture commissioner, expressed their inability to dispose the existing stocks. Mumbai Waste Management Limited, a hazardous waste management company, approached by one of the endosulfan manufacturers for disposing the available stock of endosulfan, has quoted a price of rs 3400 a kg for endosulfan and rs 3900 a kg for HCCP, the raw product Disposing the pesticide, which costs about rs 235 per kg, is going to cost about 2000 crore.
The high prices is due to lack of facilities and no competition in the market. According to the interim report the industry has facility only for incineration for treating effluent which carry a small component of endosulfan. However, the Supreme Court will decide on the fate of the export of endosulfan on September 26.
Ironically, though the industry has been maintaining that endosulfan is not the cause for the health problems in Kasaragod, they had in an earlier counter affidavit, in pleading to allow exports had stated that, stocking the pesticide and not disposing it off safely can pose environmental hazard.
The fact that there are no facilities to dispose pesticides also raises the questions on how policy makers are making laws. The Pesticides Management Bill 2008, which will replace the 1968 Insecticides Act, has a provision for the disposal of pesticides within three months of their being declared spurious and out dated. The question then is how do then propose to dispose it- economically.