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Leaching of harmful chemicals into aquifers

14th July, 2023 Environment

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  • As per a report published in Nature journal every year 70,000 tonnes of potentially harmful chemicals leach from farms and pollute water bodies across the globe.
  • Apart from polluting freshwater resources, their harmful effects extend to aquatic ecosystems and health of humans.

Other Details

  • In the study, 92 common pesticides were taken into consideration and analysed.
  • It was found that the Chemical concentrations, in about 13,000 kilometres of rivers, were in excess of the prescribed safety limits for many marine plants and animals.

Impact of pesticides on Environment

  • Most of the pesticide which is used in agriculture, about 80 %, degrades in the soil and the by-products formed in this process are equally harmful. For example, Glyphosate breaks down into a molecule known as AMPA.
  • Such molecules formed by this degradation process can stay in the environment for a long time.
  • Even if a small amount, 1 per cent, of pesticides which leaches into fresh water bodies like rivers, aquifers, can have potentially large negative consequences on the environment.
  • Some of the leached pesticide reaches oceans which hampers the sustainability and survival of marine life and coral reefs.
  • This can affect, alter and intoxicate the food chains and food webs of marine and freshwater ecosystems.

Other Impacts

  • It may lead to a significant decline in population of pollinators, especially honeybee population, and hence can have adverse impact on food security.
  • It is harmful to soil microorganisms and thus has negative consequences for soil
  • It leads to many health problems like cancer, liver and kidney ailments in humans.

Way forward

  • Limit the use of pesticides in agriculture.
  • Strengthening monitoring for such chemicals use and manufacturing for instance Monitoring & Review Committee can be set up.
  • Other form of sustainable agriculture like organic farming should be practiced.
  • Use of Bio-insecticides should be incentivised and encouraged.
  • Identifying and banning the most harmful pesticides by government is needed.
  • Risk of pollution by pesticides should be reduced in phased manner.
  • The potential risk of these chemicals on human health should be assessed and remedial measures should be taken accordingly.
  • The natural predators of insects and pests like birds, should be supported.
  • More stringent and holistic legislation should be passed and implemented.

Pesticide Regulation in India

  • The Insecticides Act, 1968 and the Insecticides Rules of 1971, form the legal framework for the manufacture and use of pesticides.
  • The Insecticide Act of 1968 governs the import, manufacture, sale, transportation, distribution, and use of pesticides in order to reduce the risk of harm to people or animals, as well as other related issues.
  • However these are not enough as it does not cover many aspects for instance -
    • Deaths and minimise risk among farm workers.
    • Prevention of environmental contamination.
    • Prevention of contamination of food.
    • Also there is no mechanism for the periodic check on the registered pesticides as per development in toxicology.
  • The Pesticide Management Bill is proposed in India for filling the loopholes.
  • It is supposed to replace the Insecticides Act of 1968.

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Use of pesticides and chemicals not only affect soil but health of humans and water bodies also. In context of above statement highlight the negative consequences of pesticides and discuss the steps which could be taken to tackle the problem. (250 words)