Three harmful agro-chemicals banned

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa and Dilanthi Jayamanne

 Following the spread of a mysterious kidney disease among the Rajarata farmers the Agriculture Ministry has banned, with immediate effect, the import of three agro-chemicals, considered harmful to humans.

The banned agro-chemicals are, Chlopyrifos, Propanil and Carbaryl.

Agriculture Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardane said that the decision had been taken on the advice of experts who had studied the situation .

The Minister said that tests carried out on the blood samples of kidney patients had found traces of arsenic and revealed that chemicals consisting of chlorpyrifos, Propanil and Carbaryl were harmful to humans.

A recent study has found that over 200,000 people are suffering from a chronic kidney disease first identified in the 1990s in areas in the dry zone such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dehiattakandiya, Hambantota, Mahiyangane and Kantale.

However, Ministry Secretary W. A. Sakalasooriya said that the use of those banned pesticides could not be stopped immediately as they had already been imported and were still in the local market.

Although the Ministry had immediately stopped imports, it would take several months to completely stop the use of those pesticides, Sakalasooriya said.

Meanwhile, an inter-ministerial committee appointed to implement the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) on the prevalence of the chronic kidney disease in several areas of the country, will meet the people in the affected areas to obtain their views.

According to the Health Ministry sources the WHO report had been handed over to the Health Ministry and its recommendations would be implemented soon.

The inter-ministerial committee included officials from the Ministries of Health, Agriculture, Water Supply and Drainage, Environment, Local Government, Provincial Councils and Education.

The Island learns that the authorities have also decided to minimise the import of triple super phosphate (TSP) fertilizer due to the high content of cadmium in it.

Meanwhile, Health Ministry spokesman D. Wanninayake said that a decision had also been taken to levy a 10 per cent tax on all insecticides. The government would utilize the revenue obtained from it for the welfare of patients. In addition, a ban would be implemented on pesticide advertisements. Mixing two types of pesticides prior to use had also been prohibited, he said, adding that the particular law would be implemented to the letter. Awareness would also be created with regard to the safe use of pesticides and agrochemicals, he said.

Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ), Hemantha Withanage, when contacted, welcomed the ban on three pesticides. However, there were a few more including Mancozeb and Carbendazim which should also be banned, he said, noting that the Registrar of Pesticides had only permitted the import of 671,504 kg and 20,000 kg of the two chemicals.

Withanage said that over 995,310 kg of Propanil, 6,000 kg of Carbaryl and 420,008 kg of Chlorpyrifos had been imported. He said that the arsenic and cadmium contents in them were fairly high.

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