ri Lanka yesterday began November on a healthy note with the long delayed imposition of a blanket ban on the import, sale or use here of the herbicide Glyphosate which, according to many environmental scientists, contains toxic substances that could lead to the poisoning of mother earth.
According to a Gazette notification issued over the weekend the import and sale of this herbicide has been banned, but the government has not ordered importing companies to send back the huge stocks already imported.
Pesticides Registrar G.A.W. Wijesekara issued the Gazette notification revoking the licenses issued for the import of this pesticide, meaning that the licenses for sale or the possession of this herbicide are now revoked.
Dr. Wijesekara said the importing companies had been informed about the ban, but were not given any deadline to send the stocks back. The herbicide cannot be destroyed in Sri Lanka because of its toxic effects.
According to a Customs Spokesman, the department had released 13 containers of this herbicide before President Maithripala Sirisena announced the ban on May 22.
The spokesman said the Customs had no authority to order the importing companies to send back the stocks.
That was the responsibility of the Pesticide Registrar’s Office which must take action to ensure the stocks are sent back, the spokesman said.
He said the Customs was ready to facilitate the process of sending back the huge stocks of this herbicide but the order must be given by the Registrar of Pesticides. This appears to be something like the traditional blame game or buck passing.
If this toxic herbicide is poisoning our earth and ground water then we urge President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to act effectively and ensure that the ban means a ban.
Most environmentalists are also of this view. Environmental Conservation Trust Director Sajeewa Chamikara said the huge stocks of this herbicide were still available in Sri Lanka and the government must ensure they were sent back. Jathika Hela Urumaya’s outspoken Parliamentarian Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera-who is playing a major role in social justice issues—insisted the stocks of this herbicide should not be kept in the country and he would closely monitor the issue.
Last month President Sirisena announced the government would be launching a massive agriculture mission from January with the vision and goal of growing all the nutritious food we need in our own country. He believes that in addition to getting a healthy nutritious diet of vegetables, fruits and grains grown in our country, Sri Lanka would be able to save hundreds of millions of dollars we are busting up now on the import of unhealthy junk foods.
Also entering the scene actively is Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. On Thursday the Premier will present to Parliament a short-term but sustainable economic development plan focusing mostly on rural areas and giving priority to eco-friendly factors.
One of these measures, significantly, relates to the import of chemical fertilizers, weedicides and pesticides. Mr. Wickremesinghe is expected to announce that the fertiliser subsidy would be withdrawn and instead the farmers would be given money to buy hopefully natural fertilisers for organic farming, which will not pollute mother earth.
The farmers would need to be educated on this and shown that though organic farming may be more difficult initially, it is the best way in the long-term.
Programmes that are gender-sensitive, reduce women’s time constraints and strengthen their control over income enhance maternal and child welfare.
This is especially important because maternal and child malnutrition perpetuate poverty from generation to generation.
The government in its national food production mission also needs to be more gender sensitive and give a bigger role to women in agriculture because women are generally known to be much more resourceful and committed than men. They turn blood into milk. Now let a thousand plants bloom from our mothers to save Mother Nature.