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Task Force to study chemical fertiliser impact 

16 Dec 2021

 
  • Agriculture, Health Ministries at the helm
  • Adverse effects on the body to be reported on 
BY Buddhika Samaraweera The Agriculture and Health Ministries have reached an agreement to set up a Task Force headed by Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena to study and prepare a report on the adverse effects of chemical fertilisers and agrochemicals including pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides/weedicides on the human body. A statement issued by the Agriculture Ministry stated that a special meeting was held on 15 December with the participation of Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella and Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage to discuss the matter. It was decided to appoint the relevant Task Force under the chairmanship of DGHS Dr. Gunawardena within a week, the Ministry said. “Although a number of organisations, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), have confirmed that farmers are suffering from kidney diseases and cancers due to the use of chemical fertilisers and agrochemicals, the Health Ministry is yet to issue an official response in that regard,” Aluthgamage has pointed out during the discussion. He has said that the Health Ministry had not confirmed the use of chemical fertilisers and agrochemicals as being unhealthy, which has in turn become an impediment to the implementation of the Government’s policy on green agriculture. Meanwhile, Rambukwella has stated that a proper study having not been conducted on the number of kidney and cancer patients increasing on a daily basis, is problematic. He also said that since most of the kidney patients have been reported from areas cultivated with Mahaweli water (water supplied through the Mahaweli Irrigation Project), it should be studied whether the Mahaweli water can cause this disease. A proposal to ban the use and importation of chemical fertilisers and agrochemicals was submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa last April and the same was granted approval, following which the relevant gazette notification was issued on 6 May 2021. However, the Government decided to revoke the Extraordinary Gazette No. 2226/48 of 6 May 2021, which banned the importation of chemical fertilisers and agrochemicals, and to thereby allow the private sector to import the same, with effect from 24 November 2021.  

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