The government is risking the public health by not attending to the issue of the use of endosulfan. The Department of Agricultural Expansion is reported to have banned the highly toxic insecticide, which is banned in more than 80 countries, in 2011. Yet, it surprisingly remains on the list of permitted insecticides of the department. The department in May 2014 permitted a leading agro-business company to import Endosul, a relatively less known endosulfan brand, as new Age reported on Sunday, while prohibiting the import of Thiodan, an endosulfan brand well known in Bangladesh. In 2013, the Atomic Energy Research Establishment detected endosulfan residue in random samples of fresh vegetables collected from kitchen markets. What is even more shocking is that the department still prescribes the application of Endosul to tea plants. The prevailing confusion and lack of a clear order on stopping the toxic substance entering market is clearly indicative of double standards in the government’s policy and its enforcement failure. The half-hearted policy on the ban proved to be fatal as 13 children in Dinajpur and Thakurgaon had died from its poisoning. The 13 children had, as a study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene shows, died by eating contaminated lychees in Dinajpur. The government’s enforcement failure in this regards amounts, therefore, to criminal negligence.
Even today, endosulfan is widely applied not only to lychees but also to vegetables, fruit and prawns as several reports published on the national and international media reveal. Agrochemical business groups are illegally importing the banned insecticide and supply it to the market. In this situation, the statement of the DAE plant protection wing official to the media that they were working to resolve the confusion is unacceptable. It will not be unjustified to ask that why six years after the ban of that controversial pesticide, they are still working to resolve the ‘confusion’. The situation points to a sorry state of pesticide regulation and poor condition of steps to control smuggling. Despite knowing that the insecticide is fatally risky and took 13 lives of children, the government has allowed it to circulate on the pesticide market. With no further delay, not only should the government strictly enforce the ban, but also form a committee to investigate the regulatory and procedural failure in prohibiting a toxic and dangerous insecticide from entering the market. The government’s commitment to public health will, otherwise, be at stake.
It is in this context that the government must immediately take initiatives to resolve the prevailing ‘confusion’ and strictly enforce the ban of all kind of toxic endosulfan brands. It must also ensure that the toxic insecticide does not enter Bangladesh through any illegal routes. In addition, the government must investigate the matter of the DAE failure at hand and take action against negligent officials. Lastly, conscious section of society also needs to come forward to make people aware of the risks of this pesticide.
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