High Court directs government to substitute use of hazardous herbicide

M Moneruzzaman | Published: 00:20, Jan 06,2020


The High Court Division on Sunday directed the government to submit in 90 days a Plan of Action to substitute the use of hazardous weed killer herbicide brand Roundup.

The court also directed the government to create mass awareness about hazardous effects of Glyphosate-contained pesticides brands including roundup by regularly  disseminating the information in print and electronic media.

The court in a ruling also asked the government to explain in eight weeks why it would not be directed to create an independent commission to monitor the effects of the use of pesticides on public  health and the environment.

In the ruling the court also asked the government to explain why the license and registration given by it to import and use Glyphosate-contained weed killer pesticides including Roundup would not be declared as illegal.

The court also asked the government to explain why it would not be directed to cancel the registration and the license for importing and distributing weed killers containing Glyphosate.

Secretaries of the ministries of agriculture, health, commerce, labour and employment, environment and forest and food as well as the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council chairman and the director-general of the Department of Bangladesh Agriculture Extension were among the 16-repondents who were asked to reply to the rule.

The bench issued the directive and the ruling after hearing a public interest litigation writ petition of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association.

BELA’s lawyer Syed Rizwana Hasan submitted that the government still allowed the use of hazardous weed killer Roundup on croplands mostly in tea garden and sugarcane field even after the US based International Cancer Institute found Glyphosate-based pesticides including Roundup as causing cancer.

She submitted that a total of 600 lawsuits were filed in US courts which ordered payment of compensations to cancer affected farmers in three cases. 

She submitted that the use of hazardous weed killer Roundup was banned in the Indian provinces of the Punjab and Kerala and Sri Lanka decided to stop use of Roundup in phases.

She submitted that at least 24 children died in 2012 after taking chemically treated lychees in Dinajpur.

She submitted that the parents of the victims were yet to receive compensations. 

Appearing for the government, assistant attorney general Toufiq Sajowar submitted that the government had plans to stop the use of weed killer Roundup by 2021.

The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene linked the sudden deaths of 13 children in Dinajpur in 2012 to chemicals sprayed on lychee trees.

‘Excessive and improper’ application of insecticides and other agriculture chemicals in lychee  orchards  “may have triggered an outbreak of a deadly swelling in the brain known as acute encephalitis syndrome (AES)” that killed those children, according to the study published online.

All of the deaths, which occurred within 20 hours of the onset of symptoms, were linked to consumption of lychee.

The study also pointed to a 2015 outbreak in the same Dinajpur region that involved 12 recorded hospitalisations and 11 deaths as further evidence that the 2012 outbreak is likely associated with the use of toxic chemicals in the area.

The government’s disease monitoring agency, IEDCR, had reported that chemicals sprayed on lychee trees were linked to those deaths.

Aggressive use of pesticides is common in Bangladesh due to lack of awareness, scientists say.

There is also a knowledge gap among the farmers about the pesticides withholding period or pre-harvest interval, resulting in pesticide-laced vegetables being supplied to the market.

Agricultural scientists say farmers must wait out a certain period of time before harvesting the crop after spraying pesticides. The time required varies depending on the pesticide group.

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