The Indian chemical
industry has urged their government not to ratify the Stockholm Convention,
an international treaty on persistent organic pollutants that is nearing
global ratification. The Indian Chemicals Manufacturing Association (ICMA)
released a statement in early June warning that "the globally legally
binding treaty would be detrimental to the health of the Indian chemical
industry" if it is accepted by the Indian government. India was one
of the 97 countries that signed the treaty in May 2001, indicating intent
to ratify and implement the Convention.
The Stockholm Convention, which currently has 33 of 50 ratifications needed
to come into effect, maps out a plan for the elimination of a class of
chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants or "POPs."
POPs have characteristics that lead to their global transport and biomagnification
as they move up the food chain and accumulate in animal and human fat.
Extremely persistent and toxic, they are particularly harmful to children
and pregnant women, even in very small doses.
The initial list of 12 chemicals targeted under the Convention includes
DDT, aldrin, dieldrin, chlordane, mirex, toxaphene and PCBs, all of which
had once been produced for the human benefit, either to control diseases
(DDT), pests (aldrin) or as industrial products (PCB oils for electrical
transformers). Others like dioxins, furans, hexzachlorobenzene and PCBs
(which are also manufactured) are unintentional by-products of processes
like waste incineration, paper manufacturing and chemical production (see
PANUPs Stockholm Convention Ratifications Gain Momentum, November 2002,
and http://www.pops.int , for a detailed
description of the Stockholm Convention and a current list of ratifying
In India, nine of the 10 'manufactured' POPs on the initial list have
already been banned (e.g. aldrin, dieldrin, chlordane) or were never manufactured
in the country (e.g. mirex and toxaphene). The sole exception is DDT,
which is used and exported for malaria control, but manufactured only
by the government and in decreasing quantities. It is important to understand
why ICMA would so aggressively oppose a treaty that does not affect its
The powerful Indian chemical industry has annual revenues of over US$25
billion (13% of total Indian GDP), ranking twelfth worldwide. Within that,
the Indian agro-chemical sector contributes US$600 million every year
and produces an estimated 90,000 metric tons of pesticides a year. Data
on pesticide residues in food collected over the past 15 years has shown
widespread contamination of both packaged food and farm gate products
throughout the country. The chemical industry is also a significant source
of export revenue, representing 13% contribution to total exports annually.
The restrictions and ultimate bans laid out in the Stockholm Convention
represent a new reality for Indian agrochemical companies, which have
faced minimal restrictions over the years as government policy linked
pesticides and fertilizers to increased food production.
The provision in the POPs treaty to add new chemicals beyond the 12 currently
on the list may be the major source of industry opposition. The Indian
chemical industry has a particular investment in two pesticides, endosulfan
and lindane, which are widely considered likely candidates for addition
under the treaty.
Endosulfan alone accounts for over 10% of total insecticide consumption
in India, and has recently come under severe pressure owing to the health
effects it has caused in communities living around cashew plantations
in the Kasargode district in South India. To counter this public pressure
a new Association of Endosulfan Manufactures in India has been formed
and is campaigning aggressively to protect endosulfan production and use.
The Indian chemical industry's efforts to block adoption of the Stockholm
Convention flies in the face of an emerging international consensus supporting
global elimination of persistent organic pollutants. Increased flow of
global information, however, will make it difficult for ICMA to succeed
in their efforts.
linked networks of civil society such as IPEN (the International POPs
Elimination Network) bring credible global information and experience,
through its worldwide membership, to the doorstep of affected villages
in India. Civil society is now participating in international policy for
a such as the Intergovernmental Forum for Chemical Safety (IFCS) and the
UN Environment Program. Regional and national public interest can engage
with and counter industry arguments effectively.
By calling on the Indian government to avoid ratification of the Stockholm
Convention, ICMA is attempting to block inevitable progress in the country's
chemicals policy. Like an ostrich with its head in the sand, Indian chemical
companies are refusing to accept real progress in protecting human health
and the environment.
Sources: "Chemical Industry Urges Govt To Stay Off POPs Treaty"
by Vijay Trivedi, June 9, 2003, Financial Express,
Pesticides in India: Environment and Health
Sourcebook, November 2000, Toxics Link.
Contact: Toxics Link India, email
email@example.com, Web site http://www.toxicslink.org