Pesticides from abroad get unfettered entry

Mahamudul Hasan

Pesticides get unfettered entry in the country without laboratory tests posing serious threat to public health and the environment.
Bangladesh is exposed to all sorts of risks lacking the law and the facilities to test imported pesticides at the ports of entry, said experts dealing with the issue.
Even the authorities have no way to know whether or not the imported stuff were pesticides or something else, they said.
The authorities failed to put in place an effective mechanism to check the import of hazardous  chemicals in the name of pesticides in last 45 years.
In Bangladesh farmers and other users use approximately 5,000 registered brands of pesticides imported by over 200 companies, according to the According to the Plant Protection Wing of the Department Agriculture Extension.
Bangladesh Crop Protection Association president  Mushfiqur Rahman said that 35,8000 tonnes pesticides were legally imported in the country in 2014 compared to 39,000 tonnes in the previous year.
He said not a single consignment was tested before unloading at the ports of entry.
According to him almost an equal quantity of adulterated hazardous pesticides were smuggled into the country by dishonest traders in both the same years.
Three tonnes of pesticides imported by the then government of Pakistan was used for the first time in Bangladesh in 1956.
Until 1974, the government supplied pesticides free of charge to encourage farmers to  use  pesticides.
The statutory deficiency emanates from the fact that no law was needed when the government alone was the importer and distributor of pesticides.
In 1979, the government withdrew all subsidies from  pesticides and left the business to private entrepreneurs.
University teachers dealing with the issue as well as officials  said fertilizers were tested at labs before unloading imported consignments.
But though more harmful   pesticides are never tested before unloading, they said.
This happens due to lacunae in the law, they said.
They said that the central laboratory at Khamarbari in the capital was not equipped to test samples of imported  pesticides.
A senior official at PPW said as the central laboratory lacked the facilities to analyze the toxicity of the imported pesticides residue.
As a result, he said, importers get the permission to sell pesticides on the basis of the  information they provide.
Director PPW Md Abul Kalam Azad said that they generally  test the samples of pesticides in the lab after imports.
But he could not say specifically what tests of  imported pesticides samples were held at PPW Lab.
Md Mahbubar Rahman, vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agriculture University, said pesticides were always hazardous and harmful to humans and other living things as they contaminate land, air,  crops and the rivers.
He called it ‘unfortunate’ that imported pesticides were never tested before unloading.
Mahbub, also a member of the Pesticide Technical Advisory Committee which gives final approval of license and registration for pesticides import, said that at the 71st meeting of the PTAC on December 21 Board of Investment director Mahbub Kabir raised the issue and demanded incorporation of provisions in the law and the rules making it mandatory to test pesticides before unloading at ports.
Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council executive chairman Abul Kalam Azad, who heads the PTAC, said that The Pesticides Ordinance,  promulgated on January 25, 1971, had no provision to check the entry of untested pesticides.
‘We recommended  amending the law incorporating the provisions to test imported pesticides on arrival,’ he said.
Consumption of farm products containing pesticide residues could cause cancer, a wide range of neurological problems besides damaging human organs, said experts.
They said that untested pesticides were flooding the market in absence of  surveillance or monitoring by the government.
Dhaka University zoology professor Hamida Khanum  expressed deep concern over what she called complete lack of aw awareness in the society  about the harmful impacts of pesticides residue on human health.
She said this was happening  due to absence of the needed laboratory facilities.

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