Groups across Asia call for a halt to mass pesticide poisonings

Groups Across Asia Commemorate No Pesticide Use Day – Calls ring out against proliferation of pesticides and corporate control of agriculture
No Pesticides Use Day, held on December 3rd, was inaugurated to draw attention to the life threatening impacts of chemical pesticides on people and the environment.
“It is truly an indictment of our times that millions of workers and farmers across Asia continue to be poisoned, suffer devastating health problems and die from pesticides exposure!”, asserts PAN AP Executive Director, Sarojeni V. Rengam. “Many Asian countries are on a hyperdrive to corporatise their agriculture, meaning large-scale monocultures for exports, which are dependent on inputs of agrochemicals,” she explains.
“This has led to an intensification in the promotion, sales and use of pesticides. It is an unmitigated tragedy that paraquat, endosulfan and numerous other pesticides—which are extremely hazardous under conditions of use in the South—are still so widely used from Bangladesh to India, from to Thailand to the Philippines, and Cambodia to China”, adds Sarojeni.
This year PAN AP has facilitated partners in the region to hold events on December 3, and in the month of December, to raise their concerns on pesticides. The availability of highly toxic pesticides, lack of information and knowledge of their hazards, aggressive marketing by industry as well as poverty, illiteracy, and lack of health facilities in the rural areas ensure that pesticides are a major cause of poisoning in farming communities. Pesticides also poison the air, water, land and food that sustain life.


As noted by the RESIST (Resistance and Solidarity Against Agrochem TNCs) Coalition in the Philippines, “The introduction of pesticides has even altered our ecosystem dramatically. Over 500 species of insects and mites are reported resistant to one or more insecticides while 216 weed species are resistant to at least one class of chemical weed killers”. RESIST is launching a project entitled “Forum and Photo Exhibit – The Danger of Pesticides: Pushing for Peasants’ Alternatives” from December 1 to 10, 2005. The Forum and Photo Exhibition will be held in different peasant communities in Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Laguna and Rizal; and in selected universities and colleges in Manila and Quezon City. Meanwhile, the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Philippines will be collaborating with groups in Digos, on the island of Mindanao to hold a host of events, the highlight of which will be a motorcade. PAN Philippines will also distribute coconut shell items carrying “No Pesticides” slogans made by the survivors from Kamukhaan, a village situated beside a banana plantation that has been devastated by the pesticides it uses.1
Groups who have been active in the campaign to rid the world of persistent organic polluting (POPs) pesticides are be utilising ‘NO Pesticides Use Day’ to highlight their campaigns. THANAL Conservation Action and Information Network of Kerala, India has been strongly campaigning in support of communities in Kasargod, where over 20 years of aerial spraying of endosulfan has lead to horrific human health and environmental problems.2 THANAL will be highlighting the plight of Kasargod survivors; as well as communities in Eloor—which hosts DDT and endosulfan plants and other chemical factories—who are living with the burden of these industries. An exhibition on Bhopal and Eloor and cultural activities are planned, as well as public meetings and seminars involving tribal communities, estate workers, and students. Meanwhile, Gita Pertiwi, based in Central Java have started monitoring the use of banned pesticides as part of the International Pops Elimination Project, and will hold a regional workshop with farmers, and a Hearing with the Local Legislature in Wonogiri.
Pesticide Eco-Alternatives Center (PEAC), based in Kunming, China, will undertake a seminar and training on paraquat—to assess the risks from paraquat, why it has been banned in various countries, and its use in China. PEAC aims to call for more groups to participate in actions for pesticide use reduction, community empowerment, consumer advocacy, alternatives development and policy recommendations. Meanwhile across in Sri Lanka, the Vikalpani National Women’s Federation will commemorate the ‘No Pesticide Use Day’ by focussing on their campaign on paraquat. Local language posters and booklets have been printed and widely distribute throughout Sri Lanka. They are also planning an awareness-raising seminar involving 500 people, and press conferences. Malaysia based, Tenaganita (Women’s Force) will be raising concerns over paraquat during the event by the Coalition of Agriworkers International (CAWI), during the PAN AP organised ‘Peoples Camp’ which is part of the NGO events in Hong Kong in response to the WTO Ministerial.
The Institute for Sustainable Agriculture Communities (ISAC) will hold a seminar on pesticides on December 24, involving a cross sector of groups and communities in Northern Thailand. And ‘No Pesticide Use Day’ in Cambodia will be held in Prey Veng Province (East of Cambodia). This event, organised by CEDAC (Centre D’Etude Et De Developpement Agricole Cambodgien) will link with the third General Assembly of Farmer and Nature Net (Cambodian Farmers Association), and involve over 800 farmers, government and local authority representatives, NGOs, and University representatives.
The international Pesticide Action Network launched December 3 as the global “No Pesticides Use Day” in 1998, in commemoration of the world’s worst chemical disaster in 1984. Between December 2-3, 1984, twenty-seven tons of lethal gases leaked from Union Carbide’s pesticide factory. The leak immediately killed 8,000 people and injured more than 500,000. Tens of thousands have died from the toxic exposure in the years since, and the death toll continues to rise as a result of long-term effects.
“The tragedy may have occurred in 1984, but the people continue to suffer to this day. PAN AP and our partners around the world demand that both Union Carbide and its new owner Dow Chemical live up to their responsibilities, and stop evading their pending liabilities”,3 states Sarojeni. “But we need to remember that hundreds of millions of people, especially farmers and agricultural workers, are exposed to pesticides and suffer acute and chronic effects every year. The poisoning of our bodies, our wombs, our children and the pollution of our water, air, soil and our food by pesticides is totally unacceptable. With the information and documentation that we now have on pesticide hazards, and the successful pesticide reduction and elimination programmes through community IPM and sustainable agriculture initiatives, it is unconscionable that we continue to use pesticides”, concludes Sarojeni.
For more information contact:
Sarojeni V. Rengam, Executive Director, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific, Penang, Malaysia. Handphone: +60 16 478 9545 PAN AP Tel: +604 657 0271/ +604 656 0381 Email: panap@panap.net, sarojeni.rengam@panap.net
Jennifer Mourin, No pesticides Use Day Coordinator, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific, Penang, Malaysia. Tel: +604 657 0271/ +604 656 0381 Email: panap@panap.net
Notes:
1. For more information on the situation in Kamukhaan, see:
http://www.panap.net/highlightsA1.cfm?id=31&hiliteid=HILITE13
http://www.panap.net/docs/campaign/Kemukhaan.pdf
2. For more information on the situation in Kasargod, see:
http://www.panap.net/docs/campaign/endoslfn.pdf
http: www.downtoearth.org.in/section.asp?sec_id=7&foldername=20040415
3. In 2001 Union Carbide became a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company. Dow, according to its own public statements, made the decision to acquire the company with full knowledge of the criminal charges pending against Carbide and their status as a fugitive from justice. Despite repeated public requests and protests around the world, Dow Chemical has refused to make its new subsidiary appear before the Bhopal District Court to face the criminal charges pending against it. Dow also insists that Union Carbide corrected the situation when they settled the civil damages for $470 million with the Indian government in 1989. However, this settlement did not extinguish the criminal charges against the company or its officials. Moreover, the settlement amount, which was based on inaccurate statistics about the scale and magnitude of the disaster, resulted in each survivor getting only $500 (Rs. 25,000) – barely enough to pay for a few years of medical costs. Source: The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, Fact Sheet, available at: https://www.bhopal.net

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