Overuse of pesticides, herbicides and weedicides has been reported from Kuttikanam in Idukki and the Mundakkayam and Erumeli areas in Kottayam, where pineapple is grown in rubber estates as an intercrop.
A field verification study by the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), Peechi, says there have been reported instances of farm workers deployed to peel pineapple losing nails following exposure to the toxic fruit. As the local workforce withdrew from the farm job citing health hazards, migrant labourers are being deployed in estates, the report says.
It has also been reported that the aquatic fauna of numerous rivulets, which flow through farmlands, are wiped off as the poisonous runoff gets mixed in the streams. “Not a single fish or amphibian or any other living organism can be found in these waters even though the water looked crystal clear. This fact speaks for itself about the rampant chemical contamination happening in the area. Nobody from the locality uses the pineapple produced in the area and the product is also not available in the local market,” the report says.
A study, carried out for the Kerala State Biodiversity Board, reveals that a combination of ethyphone, calcium carbonate and urea has been used in farming, deviating from the prescribed pesticide usage patterns.
“The wide usage of broad spectrum weedicides in heavy dose has been reported during the clearing of the land and growth stages of pineapple saplings for nearly three years. After the final harvest, the pineapple plants are uprooted and sprayed with systemic weedicides too,” the report says.
The use of chemicals is being intensified in large plantations extending thousands of acres, it says.
R.V. Varma, Chairman of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board, has written a letter to Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran urging him to take steps for assessing the health impact of labourers in pineapple plantations.
“The up-scaling of pineapple cultivation and its detachment from the local market has resulted in rampant use of pesticides and weedicides, which are being leached to the water body completely devastating the aquatic flora and fauna. The maintenance of the aquatic biodiversity should be taken as the indicator of sustainable cultivation of pineapple and the plantation owners should be made responsible for sustaining the aquatic biodiversity,” the letter says.