Usage of harmful chemicals by farmers in Valley causing deadly cancers


•    35% rise in cancer cases; Brain tumor most prevalent
•    Lack of awareness and unethical practices by MNC’s the major reason

Srinagar: The unabated use of harmful chemicals by the farming community has led to a rise in deadly cancers in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. According to highly placed sources at the SKIMS, nearly 50 cancer patients in the state are received at major hospitals for treatment every day. All in all, sources state that there is a 35% rise in cancer cases in the state.  Brain tumor has been found to be most prevalent of these among patients in Kashmir.
This is, by and large, attributed to a substantial increase in the use of pesticides and other chemicals in terms both of volume and value from the last two decades. The use of spurious oil sprays, fertilizers and pesticides have led to an adverse effect on humans as well as on horticulture and agricultural produce.
According to a research journal published by the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Science and Technology (SKUAST), the excessive use of pesticides not only increases the cost of apple cultivation but also results in many human health problems and environmental contamination and degradation. The paper also says that in Kashmir, which is a huge belt for horticulture farming, usage of indiscriminate pesticides and fungicides without any proper planning has become widespread.
“The climatic and weather conditions of the Kashmir region are most suitable conditions for apple farming but the topography of the region only allows small fraction of the crude oils to be used like Hindustan Petroleum (HP) and Servo which were recommended as Tree Spray Oil (TSO) by the experts. But then paraffin based oils like Arbofine, Rallister, ATSO, MAK etc are being used excessively by the farmers without knowing the ill effects of these chemicals. This has led to the contamination of the surrounding and has badly affected the health of farmers as they are directly in contact with these chemicals. The result also has been greater damage to our horticulture sector besides the health of people,” said Nazir Ahmad Pandith, Village Extension Officer.
“The reasons for this are lack of knowledge among farmers and presence of strong marketing forces who sell the products without caring about their adverse effects.  Multinational companies who sell these harmful products to the farmers are earning huge money and poor farmers in Kashmir without knowing the ill effects are buying these chemicals like hot cakes. SKUAST-K has imposed restrictions on these harmful chemicals since 2001 but they are being sold through black marketing practices and channels”, he  further added.
Researchers and medical experts have raised an alarm over exposure to toxic chemicals through food, water and air which could lead to deadly diseases and ultimately to death. According to a report published in FIGO (International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics),  brain tumors and cancers  occur , among other things, due to the excessive usage of pesticides, air pollutant chemicals which remain as  droplets in air and are inhaled by humans; they also cause other diseases like brain tumors, heart ailments and deformities in the limbs. The report also indicates that exposure to toxic chemicals during pregnancy can cause a threat to the foetus.
A 2013 study by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India showed how most common food items contain banned pesticides in quantities that are several hundred times over the permissible limit (Indian Permissible Limits are much higher than EU Levels).Most of these are neurotoxins and carcinogenic and can cause long term damage to humans as well as to environment. In India, the state of Jammu and Kashmir is among the list of states that uses extensively lot of harmful pesticides with Punjab topping the list. According to report published by the state government of Punjab ,18 people succumb to cancer every day. It has 90 cancer patients per 10000 people compared to the national average 80 patients. The Jammu and Kashmir state according to the report has 60 cancer patients per 10000 people. A large percentage of these patients are from rural areas.
All these findings are validated by Medical experts in Kashmir. They attribute the rising number of brain tumors and other deadly diseases to the usage of these harmful chemicals. The medical expert community is also are of the view that Government has failed in combating the black marketing of these harmful products. The exigent need of the hour is proper planning and proportional usage of these chemicals. More importantly, awareness campaigns which highlight and illustrate the harmful effects the chemicals used by farming communities  and resisting the efforts of snake oil salesmen and black marketers need to be launched on an urgent basis.

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