Press on Environment and Wildlife
Reckless use of pesticides (Issue of the week, June Week 3 (2005))

This week, reports from two different NGOs who conducted two independent studies, point to the same fact - pesticides are being used in an unregulated manner in the country.
Heavy doses of pesticides have been detected in one Government hospital and four leading private hospitals in the Capital, according to a survey conducted by Delhi-based non-Government organization Toxics Link. The survey, undertaken to gauge pesticide abuse in city hospitals, found heavy doses of dangerous chemicals like pyrethroids, carbamate, organophosphate, coumarin, pyrazole and inorganic zinc being used without checks in the screened hospitals, posing risk of diseases such as cancer, genetic damage, decreased fertility, stillbirth and disturbed immune system resulting in asthma and allergy. Conducted in January this year, the study revealed that 80 per cent of the hospitals surveyed used chemical pesticides and hired an outside contractor to do the job. Also, all these hospitals used pesticides routinely without examining the need for them.

A study by the Centre for Science and Environment has detected in the blood of the state's farmers chemicals from six to 13 pesticides, in quantities up to 600 times the levels found in Americans. "If it's Punjab today, tomorrow it could be Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar. Regulation must begin immediately," the Center's director, Sunita Narain, said. The tests were undertaken following media reports of an increase in cancer cases in Punjab. Although Narain could not link the pesticides (organochlorine and organophosphate) in the bloodstream with cancer as she wasn't sure exactly what harm they did to humans, studies on animals have shown that even a single instance of low-level exposure to some organophosphates can cause changes in the brain's chemistry. Early childhood exposure can lead to lasting effects on learning, attention and behavior. The study, conducted in October, during spraying time, tested 20 randomly selected blood samples from four villages: Mahi Nangal, Jajjal and Balloh in Bathinda district and Dher in Ropar district. The levels of certain organochlorine pesticides in the blood samples have been found to be very high - between 15 and 605 times higher than those found in samples of people in the United States, tested by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (and published) in its 2003 report. Narain suggested the chemical content of pesticides in India must be different from those in the US and that Indian farmers don't take adequate precautions while spraying the chemicals in their fields.

These reports call for immediate action in regulating the use of pesticides by formulating policies towards the aim and raising awareness.

Pataudi faces arrest for hunting (June Week 3 (2005)) Former Indian Cricket captain Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi who had allegedly been hunting in the Jhajjar area (near Chandigarh) is facing arrest with the postmortem report confirming that the killed animals found in the vehicle he was traveling were endangered black buck and two rabbits. The Haryana police has already arrested one person after registering an FIR against Pataudi and seven others traveling in the vehicle with the carcasses of the animals, a rifle, a gun and some live cartridges. The vehicle has also been impounded. Pataudi, along with the other seven accused, was first issued notice by the Haryana Police, asking him to appear before the Jhajjar police within 24 hours. The deadline expired on June 7 evening, and the accused have now been given time till June 10 to cooperate with the investigation. This is one of the many cases in the recent years involving celebrities hunting for recreation and goes to show the insensitivity of that lot towards conservation issues who should be campaigning for these very same issues.
Coca-cola launches water harvesting project (June Week 3 (2005)) Coca Cola in partnership with the Andhra Pradesh Road Transport Corporation (APRTC) has launched a rainwater harvesting project with a capacity to harvest 32, 00, 000 liters of water. The project, coming up at the Picket Bust Stand in Secunderabad, was announced on the occasion of the World Environment Day.
Tripwires and chilli bombs keep the elephants away (June Week 3 (2005)) Conservationists are installing tripwires and red chilli smoke bombs to prevent herds of wild Asiatic elephants from destroying crops and attacking homes in India's remote northeast. The system involves battery-operated tripwires fixed a few hundred meters away from a home, that trigger a warning bell when marauding elephants approach a village. "Trials carried out over the past eight months have been successful and we are going ahead with installation of these devices in five villages in Assam State," Nandita Hazarika, a project coordinator of the Assam Haathi (Elephant) Project, said (The Pioneer, June 08). "This early warning system gives the villagers adequate lead time to prepare for warding off the elephants and obviates the need to keep sleepless night vigils," Hazarika said. Conservationists also tested the tolerance level of elephants to some pungent variety of chillies and would use the chilli smoke 'bombs' and chilli-smeared ropes to keep the elephants away. India's northeast accounts for the world's largest concentration of wild Asiatic elephants, but a reduction in their habitat over the years has led to an increase in the number of confrontations between man and elephant. Such techniques have been successfully used in Africa and other parts of Southeast Asia and it is hoped that it would be the same for India.
Hindon declared a dead river (June Week 3 (2005)) The Pollution Control Department has termed Hindon (Noida) a dead river. As per the findings of a study conducted during the month of May 2005, the Hindon river has been converted into a drain. The ratio of liquid oxygen in the river has been found to be zero. The biological oxygen has, however, been found to be six times more than the accepted norms which effectively means that no plants, fish etc can grow or survive in this water. These data have been collected from the Hindon river at Kulesra bridge. According to sources in the department, about 350 tonnes of waste is generated in Noida daily and due to excess waste and sewer water being poured into Hindon, the river water has become stagnant, with the result that the content of liquid oxygen cannot increase any further. However, experts feel that the Noida authority has failed to realize the gravity of the matter and failed to take concrete steps to tackle this problem so far. Such a state of affairs is not something rare in the recent times and this should hopefully serve as a wake-up call for the Noida authorities.
Survey on insects (June Week 3 (2005)) A survey conducted on insects in Bandipur National Park, near Mysore, has identified a wide range of ants, beetles and butterflies, which is expected to promote studies on insects in the area. The survey has revealed the presence of 27 species of ants and 41 species of dung beetles (including 9 rare species) and 85 species of butterflies. This survey conducted for one year and across four seasons was taken up by the Mysore-based Green Club, a trust dedicated to nature studies. Being the first of its kind on insects, the survey will become a base study for research, which can be taken up in 866 sq. km. of national park. Buoyed by the success of initial studies, the club has embarked upon taking up higher research on leaf beetles, dung beetles, butterflies and ants
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