Pesticide industry thriving on legal loopholes

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The Centre for Science and Environment’s (cse) recent exposé has blown the lid off the industry’s tall claims on the purity of bottled water. Simultaneously, it has brought to the surface a much larger problem: contamination of groundwater by pesticides.

On its part, the government seems to be in flip-flop mode. Initially, the Bureau of Indian Standards (bis) announced that it was switching over to the more stringent European Union regulations for packaged water on which cse had benchmarked its study (see: "Bottled Water", February 15, 2003). Later, the bureau seemed to be backtracking reportedly under pressure from the packaged water industry and pesticide lobbies. Last heard, Union health minister Sushma Swaraj had set an April 1, 2003, deadline for enforcing the new, stricter standards.

It is noteworthy that even if the authorities did adopt such measures, they would merely be treating symptoms and not the root cause: the presence of pesticide residues in source water. In fact, pesticides are constantly seeping into groundwater as well as surface water due to the porosity of laws that govern these toxic chemicals.

In India, pesticides are regulated under the Insecticides Act of 1968 and Insecticides Rules of 1971. The Central Insecticides Board (cib) in Faridabad, Haryana, is the nodal regulatory body. The act controls the import, manufacture, sale, transport, distribution and use of insecticides with a view to preventing risk to humans and animals, and for other matters connected therewith. Significantly, the legislation does not explicitly recognise environmental hazards of pesticides or the threat they pose to biodiversity. Neither does it specifi