Poisonous chemicals: Silent killer in Sri Lanka

1 December 2018 12:07 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The United Nations yesterday marked the Day of Remembrance for all victims of chemical warfare to pay tribute to them and to reaffirm.   


According to the UN, the conference of State parties at its 20th session decided that a memorial day of remembrance for all victims of chemical warfare would be observed on November 30 each year or, when appropriate, on the first day of the regular session of the conference.  


The third review conference of State parties to the Chemical Convention held from April 8 to 19, 2013 at the Hague in the Netherlands, adopted by consensus a political declaration that confirms the “unequivocal commitment” of the State Parties to the global chemical weapons ban and a comprehensive review of the implementation of the chemical weapons convention since the last review conference in 2008. It also maps out the priorities of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for the coming five years.   


The history of the serious efforts to achieve chemical disarmament that culminated in the conclusion of the Chemical Weapons Convention began more than a century ago, the UN says. Chemical weapons were used on a massive scale during World War I, resulting in more than 100,000 fatalities and about a million casualties.  


However, chemical weapons were not used on the battleground in Europe in World War II. Following this and with the advent of the nuclear debate, several countries gradually came to the realisation that the marginal value of having chemical weapons in their arsenals was limited, while the threat posed by the availability and proliferation of such weapons made a comprehensive ban desirable. 


Adopted in 1993, the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force on April 29, 1997. It determined, “for the sake of all people, to exclude completely the possibility of the use of chemical weapons.”  


 The UN says that today, OPCW member States represent about 98% of the global population and landmass and 98% of the worldwide chemical industry. In 2013, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the OPCW for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.  


In Sri Lanka, though we were devastated by a 26-year ethnic war, there were no reports or allegations of any chemical warfare. However, it is now widely accepted that imported agro-chemicals have been the silent killer in Sri Lanka.


 Jathika Hela Urumaya leader Patali Champika Ranawaka -- playing a key role in the battle against the poisoning of our mother earth and even underwater ground resources by the excessive use of imported agro chemicals -- says these chemicals are now stored in the bodies of the vast majority of human beings regardless of age. They occur in the mother’s milk and in the tissues of the unborn child.  


In a Daily Mirror article, he says, all this has come about because of the sudden rise and prodigious growth of an industry for the production of manmade or synthetic chemicals with insecticidal properties. This industry is a child of the Second World War!  


“What sets the new synthetic insecticides apart is their enormous biological potency. They have immune power not merely to poison but to enter into the most vital process of the body and change them in sinister and often deadly ways. They destroy the very enzymes whose function is to protect the body from harm, they block the oxidation process from which the body receives its energy, they prevent the normal functioning of various organs and they may initiate in certain cells the slow and irreversible change that leads to malignancy……” - According to Rachel Carson in the book titled Silent Spring.   


Also it had been noted that selenium levels of people with the Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Origin (CKDu) were below the normal level and arsenic levels of their hair were higher when compared with that of healthy people in the areas.   


Rachel Carson and her book Silent Spring paved the way for modern environment movements in the United States and to ban DDT and other related synthetic chemicals which have destroyed living beings including pests. Now this silent spring is echoing in Sri Lanka’s North Central Province. There prevails a deadly silence of a chronic kidney disease which has already killed hundreds of innocent poor farmers.  


Thus, we hope the government will intensify its efforts to gradually reduce the use of imported chemical fertilizers, weedicides or pesticides. With the help of the media, intensive programmes need to be conducted to educate farmers on the long-term value of using organic fertilizer such as cow dung.   

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