India goes on a negative note

The fifth Conference of Parties (COP) of Stockholm Convention meets on April 25 in Geneva to decide the fate of endosulfan. The Conference of Parties will consider the recommendation of Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) of the Stockholm Convention to enlist Endosulfan and its isomers in Annex A to the Convention, with specific exemption.
However, the Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has made up his mind that banning endosulfan is out of the question. Pawar expressed his inability to ban the pesticide to the National Human Rights Commission on the count that banning wasn't a viable option as there were no studies to prove the harmful effects of the pesticide and that there was no scientific basis for the actions recommended by the Stockholm Convention or for the ban already imposed by nations. So while 81 countries, some with access to advanced scientific research, have banned the pesticide, India isn't convinced yet. India remains the world’s largest producer and user with more than 60 Endosulfan manufacturers and formulators.

Jairam Ramesh, minister of state for environment and forests, while addressing the media before sending off his delegation for the Stockholm Convention said that India would not ban endosulfan. His stand is that it has just been one state and no other state has had problems with endosulfan.

National Human Rights Commission had categorically asked Government of India to join the international consensus at COP-5 and permit the listing of endosulfan as an Annex A chemical. The Annex A contains the chemicals that should be eliminated. The Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC), a subsidiary to UN's Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants has reached its conclusions regarding environmental health impact of Endosulfan. The POPRC comprises of 31 members and they are all highly placed scientists representing their regions around the globe.    

The stand of the Indian Chemicals, Agriculture and Health Ministry headed by cabinet ministers have been quite regressive especially with regard to Endosulfan. It is evident that they are working under the influence of Indian Chemical Council, an industry body. These ministries have consistently prevailed on a structurally weak environment ministry whose head is a minister of state with independent charge and who has been kept out of Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs. Ironically, representatives of the chemical council are always present in the Indian delegation at the COP meetings.

The buzz is that the COP will head for a vote in this meeting, that no consensus on endosulfan has been reached yet. And if India is cornered in a vote then then they might agree for a Annex B listing that states chemicals should be phased out eventually till a substitute is found instead of Annex A that calls for complete elimination. This is hoping on a positive note that Prime Minister intervenes.

India had already missed the deadline for transmission of National Implementation Plan for the treaty which it was supposed to submit to the secretariat of UN's Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) by 4th December, 2008. The Draft of the NIP is ready and was available for comments till April 1, 2011. The 235 page draft has emerged too late.

Apart from endosulfan, alternatives to DDT will also be explored at the COP-5 meeting. Currently, there are 21 chemicals listed as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in the convention including DDT, lindane, PCBs, dioxins and furans and some brominated flame retardants. The objective of the convention is to restrict and eliminate these chemicals from production and use in order to protect human health and the environment.

The COP-5 meeting will be held from 25th April to 29th April at the Geneva International Conference Centre, Geneva, Switzerland. 

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