India secures exemptions on endosulfan ban

Geneva: Amid demands for a total ban on endosulfan at home, India and a few developing nations on Friday managed to secure several exemptions, including a phase out period of 11 years to implement the ban on production and use of the toxic pesticide at an international conference here.

"All the exemptions demanded by India and other developing countries, particularly a long phase-out period as well as access to safe and cost-effective alternatives, have been agreed," a senior official of the Environment Ministry told PTI here today.

At the concluding session of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) here a final decision will be adopted based on two draft decisions that take on board India`s concerns, the official said.

Endosulfan is widely used in cultivation of several agricultural crops.

After intense negotiations over the last five days as to how the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants must deal with endosulfans, India and other developing countries such as Indonesia have agreed to join the "consensus" because the two draft decisions fully address all their concerns, said another developing country official.

Under draft A, the parties to the Stockholm convention on POPs have agreed to include endosulfan in Annex A of banned organic chemicals.

Once the parties adopt the decision to include endosulfan in the Annex A, they will have a period eleven years- in two instalments- to phase out the use and ban of endosulfan which is currently used in the cultivation of about 15-20 crops such as cotton, coffee and maize.

The second draft deals with a work programme in which countries heavily dependent on the production and use of endosulfan until now will be provided "safe and cost-effective alternatives that would include technical assistance as well as access to latest scientific know-how", the official said.

These two draft decisions are expected to be merged during the final session in the evening today.

Even as Kerala Chief Minister V S Achutahananandan raised the political heat by calling for the immediate ban of endosulfan, the central government adopted a cautious position that all aspects relating to this deadly pesticide must be properly examined and decided through consensus.

In addition to endosulfan, there will be eight other new other PoPs that will be included in the Annex A due to several harmful effects on the environment, and bioaccumulation in organisms (increases in concentration up the food chain).

India adopted a tough negotiating position on endosulfan in the face of intense domestic political agitations as well as attempts by European countries to steamroll a decision with few exemptions.

Several developing countries also called for "exceptions" and unimpeded access to alternatives in the event endosulfan is included in Annex A list of chemicals by the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC).

Initially, India raise opposition to the inclusion of the recommendation to include endosulfan in Annex A by the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC).

Chemicals listed in Annex A are banned for production and use due to the threat they pose to living beings, particularly environment.

In its review meeting last year, POPRC included endosulfan in Annex A.

India said a decision on endosulfan must be based on "consensus" as per the practice in all multilateral meetings.

Given the differences between the industrialised countries on one side who want the ban of production and use of endosulfan, and developing countries who are demanding technical and financial assistance as well as transfer of technology during the phase-out period, the COP5 has constituted a contact group to examine all the issues and suggest its recommendations.