Friday, October 7, 2011

PPCB Seminar on Cancer : Wrong understanding and Misleading Conclusions made Confusions darker


Kheti Virasat Mission's Response to Punjab Pollution Control Board's Workshop on Prevalence of Cancer in Punjab

Wrong understanding and Misleading Conclusions made Confusions darker

Punjab Pollution Control Board organised a workshop on Prevalence of Cancer in Punjab on 12.9.2011 at Shivalik Hotel Chandigarh. It had a prior fixed notion that the number of cancer cases in Punjab has not increased as is being put up by some NGOs and the media. Meaning thereby that there is nothing to worry and unnecessary scare is being created by NGOs and the media. It had also a fixed notion that environmental toxicity has nothing to do with the prevalence of Cancers and that the Cancers are caused by tobacco and alcohol consumption.

The official version of Punjab Government was also shared that Industry's contribution to environmental/ water pollution was only twenty percent and eighty percent is contributed by city/ town sewers. Another important point in the official version was that agro chemicals are un avoidable. We have to use them to feed the people of our country. One more important point in the official version was that Uranium found in the environment of Punjab is no problem at all and we should not bother about it. Unnecessary scare is being created by some NGOs and the media.

All these points were thoroughly discussed in the seminar/ workshop. Official versions were seriously questioned/ challenged by participants. Very sound arguments were given to prove that all these versions do not match with the latest research in our country and other countries including USA and Europe. While releasing the conclusions of the workshop only official/ sarkari version which are based on old and one sided understanding were given to the media. These views are out dated and have been repeatedly proved wrong. The views of large number of participants have been blacked out. As a result very wrong and distorted message has been conveyed to the people of Punjab/ India. To put the record straight we briefly give the opinions of those who differed with the official version.

1. Regarding Number of Cases of Cancer in Punjab: Despite having huge infrastructure and staff the Health Department is yet not able to get proper figures of cancer incidence. The lone epidemiological study on cancer done by PGIMER and sponsored by PPCB was discredited by the government itself. Irony is this that Mr Satish Chandra who addressed the Workshop told the audience – “PGIMER study is not conclusive, it does not say that pesticides are responsible for cancer”, “PAU has opposed the study”. This reflects that a massive confusion and misinformation is prevailing in official circles. Since, there are no authentic figures of cancer cases with health department. No data regarding the prevalence of cancer cases 20-30 years back is there. Similarly no data is available about the prevalence of cancer cases now. Whatever figures are available are hospital based figures. No body has ever seriously tried to analyse even this data comparing the cancer cases 30 years back and now. There is no Population Based Registry in any region of Punjab at present which can only be the authentic source of data on Cancers in Punjab or Malwa region of Punjab. The only study regarding prevalence of Cancers was done by PGI Chandigarh. The original study (we have the copy) showed clearly that Cancer prevalence in Malwa was double as compared to rest of the Punjab. Cancer cases from Malwa are going to Rajasthan for treatment. The analysis of the data of these hospitals showed clearly that the toxicity related cancers are much more as compared to tobacco related cancers. We can not form an authentic view about the prevalence of cancers in Malwa or Punjab in the absence of studies/ a well organised Community Based Cancer Registry. The media has projected the voice of people and NGOs which is based on the increased number of cases as compared to 20-30 years back which no study/department has ever tried to verify. Even the illiterate villages are able to appreciate the tremendous increase in the prevalence of cancers and other serious illnesses in these villages. Strangely those in the chairs of administration and political power do not want to see it.

2. Environmental Toxicity and Cancers: Cancer is not single disease. There are three distinct types of cancers depending on the causation--one -those associated with use of tobacco; second-those which are associated with pesticides and other environmental toxins and third are those associated with radiations. The cancers associated with tobacco consumption are less in Punjab as compared to rest of the country because of the less consumption of tobacco here. The toxicity related cancers are much more in Punjab. There are clear indications of genetic mutations and lowered immunity which means that the number of cancer cases will increase even more in the future.

More over cancers are not an acute disease which come as dramatic epidemic and then go away if the cause is removed. Cancers are caused by 15-20 years of constant exposure to carcinogenic chemicals/ radiations. But once they start coming they will go on rising for decades and centuries to come even if the cause has been removed. One more fact should be remembered-if an individual is exposed to carcinogenic chemicals/ radiations, the possibility of developing cancer will not be the sum total of the two. A well known example is-a smoker has 11 times possibility of developing Lung Cancer as compared to non smoker, while an Asbestos Worker has 5 times possibility as compared to non worker. A person who is Asbestos Worker as well as Smoker should have 16 times possibility of developing Lung Cancer. But actually it is 55 times. That means that a smoker of a community who is affected by toxicity has much more chances of developing smoking based cancers as compared to an individual of a community not affected by toxicity and vice versa.

3. Industrial Pollution is not a serious issue: The rulers are trying to sell the idea that we need not be serious about industrial pollution but focus our selves on developing treatment plants for cities and towns. It is not the question of quantity of waste water which is being thrown into fresh water sources but the quality. The city sewers, if they contain only domestic waste water do not contain much of dangerous chemicals except synthetic detergents and plastic envelops. But the reality is that many industries also throw their waste water into the city sewers making them highly poisonous. The domestic water contains human and animal excreta. It can cause infectious diseases but can not change the chemical composition of the water. Today the bigger problem in Punjab is the dangerous chemicals in the water which come from industry only. The official version that 80% pollution is caused by Domestic Waste is naked lie being propagated to hide the criminal behavior of our industry and our politicians/ bureaucrats who provide them shelter to commit grave crimes against the humanity and nature. There are large number of industries who are using old and out dated techniques or are manufacturing such dangerous products whose waste can not even be processed. They will have to stop using those techniques. The problem of Industrial waste water is highly complex and each industry has to be dealt individually. Many industries which are doing more harm than good may have to be closed to save the environment and life.

4. Uranium found in the environment/ water of Punjab is not a serious problem: Recently uranium has been detected in significantly higher concentrations that the safe limits. Instead of finding the source of the uranium, the PPCB is trying to propagate the idea that there is nothing serious about it with the help of a physicist of Punjab University. Punjab Government / PPCB should try to understand the problem much more seriously than depending on one physicist whose arguments are very superficial and one sided. . Two very senior scientists present in the seminar, who has a long experience and has studied the consequences of Coal Based Thermal Power Plants, vehemently opposed the opinion of the physicist were totally ignored by the PPCB's Official version released to the media. We should seriously and sincerely go deep into the finding of excessive amounts of Uranium in the water / environment. If thermal plants come out to be the cause we should oppose the installation of too many new Coal Based Thermal Power Plants in a small state like Punjab. Many studies in USA / Europe and recently a study of Chanderpur Super Thermal Plant in Maharashtra have already proved that burning of too much coal cause very serious environmental pollution including that by Uranium.

5. Agro Chemical – Pesticides are un avoidable: This is lie which has been spoken so often that it seems true to all of us. No Agriculture University in India including PAU Ludhiana has ever tried to make a parallel research on non chemical agricultural practices. When too many studies have indicted pesticides and synthetic fertilisers of causing grave damage to human/ animal health and environment, NGOs and Agricultural Scientists started to experiment on organic/ natural farming. Now on the initiative of NGOs it has been proven beyond any doubt that agrochemicals are not needed for producing crops. It has proved in lacs of acres of land that organic and natural farming are not only sustainable but are urgent need in all the countries including India. Even FAO has categorically stated that entire humanity can be fed on organic without any serious consequence.

There is a serious degradation of environment of Punjab with grave consequences on health of humans/ animals, biodiversity, natural resources and other socio-economic / cultural aspects. We are amidst a serious environmental toxicity and civilisational crisis. We should not try to avoid and postpone the search for truth. We must launch an JAN ANDOLAN to mitigate and find a permanent solution. Kheti Virasat Mission is going to organise a two day workshop on ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH CRISIS AND ITS SOCIOPOLITICAL SOLUTIONS on 28-29 October in CRRID Chandigarh. All political parties, Social, Cultural Organisations, NGOs, Kisan Organisations and individuals will be invited to attend it. The purpose is to try to make Environmental Degradation as ELECTION ISSUE in the coming ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS.

KVM suggestions to PPCB : Build Community participation and Action Research system for Mitigating Environmental Health Crisis in Punjab


Suggestions submitted to Punjab Pollution Control Board by Kheti Virasat Mission and its affiliate Environmental Health Action Group on the eve of Workshop on Incidence of Cancer in Punjab held at Hotel Shivalik, Chandigarh on 12 September 2011.

Build Community participation and Action Research system for Mitigating Environmental Health Crisis in Punjab

Proposals for a Time Bound Action Plan to be executed by Punjab Pollution Control Board, Health Department, Other Government/ Semi Government Departments, Universities and NGOs with active participation of the community.

The action plan should be executed/monitored/coordinated by a Joint Action Committee of all the participants. Its functioning should be totally transparent. The activities and results should be shared with the people through the media periodically. We need to do the following things on priority basis:

There is significant scientific evidence available now which shows beyond doubt that our environment—soil, water and air- has been grossly polluted with highly poisonous/ toxic substances. These toxic substances have already reached the food chain and the human bodies. Their levels in human and animal tissues are high enough to disturb their physiology and cause or contribute to various diseases and premature death. That virtually means that we are being slowly poisoned along with other species who are consuming the same food for their survival. Punjab is sitting on a volcano of environmental health crisis, which is affecting not only the human beings but all the living species. We are neck deep in toxic environment. The effects of this chronic poisoning on human health are not being taken note of by medical profession, health department and the governments. Similarly the impact on animal and plant health is not being given the urgently needed due attention by the concerned departments.

The toxins are coming from multiple sources. The use of highly poisonous agro-chemicals (pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers); discharge of untreated or partially treated industrial waste into natural water bodies and coal based power plants seem to be the main sources of pollution. The highly toxic waste from industrial units is being discharged into the natural water bodies without proper treatment which is a must according to law. This toxic water further contaminates the soil and dangerious substances enter our food chain.

The following must be done to keep a check:--

  1. Testing the water samples from---

(a) The spot where an industrial unit is discharging its waste water.

(b) The natural water body in which the waste water is being discharged.

(c) The tube wells, rivers, canals and all other sources from where water is being drawn to be used for agricultural purposes as well as for consumption of animals and human beings.

(d) Water being supplied for drinking.

  1. The water samples should be tested for the following---

(a) Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD)

(b) Chemical Oxygen demand (COD).

(c) Total Coli form And E-Coli Bacteria.

(d) Total Suspended Matter.

(e) Total Dissolved Salts (TDS).

(f) Pesticides—Organochlorine, Organophosphorus, Carbamates and others.

(g) Heavy Metals and other toxins—mercury, arsenic, lead, chromium, cadmium, fluoride, zinc, iron, nitrates, radio active substances and other industrial and plastic based chemicals etc.

  1. Samples of food –vegetables, fruits, fodder, grains, pulses, bovine milk, eggs and meat- should be tested for the levels of pesticides, heavy metals, other industrial toxins and radio active substances.
  2. Samples of animal and human secretions and tissues—blood, urine, milk, saliva and mucous membrane scrapings--- should be tested for levels of pesticides, heavy metals and for evidence of genetic mutations.
  3. Epidemiological studies among the affected communities.
  4. Planning remedial measures.
  5. High levels of pesticides and heavy metals have been reported in the food chain and the human bodies but the doctors are unable to correlate it with the disease pattern prevalent in the community. The doctors should be sensitized/ trained to suspect the chronic poisoning and then to confirm it by testing the tissue levels. If the suspicion of chronic poisoning is strong enough to need further investigation then the Health Department should try to pin point the source of that poisoning in collaboration with PPCB, Public Health, Animal Husbandry and Agriculture Departments.

Five types of evidence is clearly visible-

1. The levels of various toxins in the environment are very high.

2. The use of various toxins is unregulated and very high.

3. The levels of these toxins in the human tissues including breast milk are alarming.

4. There is an ample number of studies in the world scientific literature which co relate the levels of these toxins with specific clinical entities.

5. Similar clinical entities are clearly visible in our people who are living in the toxicity-affected environment.

We have enough indications/ evidences to raise the questions. We have to work hard on all the five levels to find answers to our problems. The task is very big. We have to join our hands and heads to find out the solutions. The problem of environmental health is very grave. It is particularly grave for the coming generations because there are clear evidences of toxicity induced genetic mutations. The effects on human reproductive system have been found to be very serious. There are clear indications that the toxic substances affected the reproductive system of species which have become extinct. The other visible effects on human health are--increase in the prevalence of toxicity related cancers, declining herd immunity and rising prevalence of infections, rising prevalence of neurological disorders, spontaneous abortions, congenital abnormalities, diabetes mellitus, heart and blood vessel diseases, asthma, allergies, auto immune disorders, menstrual disorders, declining sperm count and increasing prevalence of childless couples and host of other clinical entities which are directly or indirectly associated with environmental toxicity.

Similar pattern of ill health is visible in our cattle. The adverse effects on our crops and plant biodiversity are clearly visible. The adverse effects on our soil and water are also obvious. Human Health, Animal Health and Plant Health are part of a bigger concept of Health of all Living Beings. All of them share the same environment and are part of the same food chain. Health of all living beings is directly related to the health of soil, water and air. The whole ecosystem is one single entity and is being gravely affected by the activities around us.

Let us join our heads and hands to save our ecosystem, environment, human health and our future generations.

  1. Government has resolved to undertake a widespread and multi-centric environmental epidemiological mapping through an extensive study and participatory research.
  2. As Punjab has suffered the most severe ecological crisis, thus it needs a paradigm shift to prevent ecological suicide. The government has proposed a first ever ecological audit to seek an analysis on ecological condition of Punjab. A high power working group shall be constituted by involving independent experts to take up this study. This is indeed very important to get a clear picture of ecological damages and hence to evolve a strategy for ecological revival and environmental sustainability in Punjab.
  3. A balance sheet regarding the collapse of Green Revolution also needs to be drawn. We need to know what went wrong with agriculture, so that we don't repeat the same mistakes. A post-mortem of the Green Revolution is absolutely necessary.
  4. Research Project on Pesticide consumption and residue: As Punjab has one of highest levels of pesticide consumption in India, it subsequently has the highest pesticide load on its people and eco-system. Punjab is already facing severe adverse impacts of agro-chemicals used in last four decades. Now at this crucial juncture, the Punjab Government should take bold steps to ensure a safe environment and eco-system to the future of generations of Punjab. For this the Punjab Government should take these steps:

· Complete a detailed study on pesticide consumption patterns in Punjab.

· The government should immediately ban aggressive marketing of pesticides including all forms of advertisements, publicity and promotion schemes for pesticides and other agro-chemicals along with all incentives given to the pesticide and agro-chemical dealers’ network.

· Raise awareness about the dangers of pesticide use through well-financed education campaigns. These must ensure the dissemination of information regarding ill effects of pesticides to all users.

· The government should evolve an action plan for the immediate and time-bound phasing out of the most deadly pesticides: Class I A, I B and Ii.

· The vital task of properly compiling residue data, already generated by the agriculture universities should be completed.

The disease wise data collection is very poor in government hospitals and is almost non-existent in private hospitals. The registration of diseases should be made fool proof so that we can know the disease pattern of the community and try to find the underlying root cause.

It is really disturbing to note that our mainstream health care system is mainly focused on giving palliative care to the sick and is least bothered about knowing the root cause of a disease. It is a well known fact now that most of our diseases are directly or indirectly related to our environment. Hence this registry should be more strict and accurate in the case of diseases which are known to be the result of environmental degradation such as cancers; congenital abnormalities; spontaneous abortions and other clinical entities related with reproductive system; cerebral palsy, mental retardation, autism and other handicaps; infectious diseases and all other patients needing indoor treatment. All deaths including still births should be investigated in detail including their tissue levels of pesticides and heavy metals.

Safe food for Punjabis: The data from All India Coordinated Research Project on Pesticide Residue clearly indicates the presence of DDT, HCH and BHC in cereals, milk, butter, fruits, vegetables and even infant formula samples from Punjab. The edibles have residues of other pesticides like Phosphamidon, Quinalphos, Chlorpyriphos, Endosulfan, Malathion, Parathion, Monocrotophos and lindane. This is an alarm bell for devastation in offing. Moreover the presence of pesticides in blood as detected by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) also raises serious questions. The CSE report cites the presence of a cocktail of 6 to 13 pesticides in blood samples. CSE also finds organo-chlorine and residues of the newer and so-called ‘non-persistent’ pesticides, organophosphates, in blood. The rising levels of these dangerous chemicals in human bodies and bodies of other living beings, in the soil, water and food items, much beyond safe limits is the warning sign to take corrective steps urgently. This situation demands that pesticide-free food must be first offered to the people of Punjab.

Declare ecological and environmental health emergency in Malwa: The southwestern Malwa region has been identified as facing the most severe environmental health crisis. The use of toxic chemicals is the highest in this belt. This entire area should be treated as a toxic hot spot. To focus its efforts, the government must declare and impose immediately the state of ecological and environmental health emergency in the entire belt. For this, specially drawn plans are needed with a specific focus on natural and organic farming, with adequately allocated funds for the targeted problem.

Environmental Health Crisis Mitigation Task Force: Even while the assessment is being done, an environmental health crisis of this intensity can only be mitigated by large scale community intervention and participation. Thus the new government should form an Environmental Health Crisis Mitigation Task Force under the aegis of Institute for Environmental Health Research and Studies with the majority participation from NGOs and farmer groups. A senior epidemiologist or environmentalist should head this task force with powers minimum of the secretary rank of the government. This task force should be constituted by taking members from medical fraternity, social activists, and teachers of life sciences, farmers and experts from various governmental departments.

The primary work of this task force would be to prepare and implement a Comprehensive Relief and Remedial Programme in the acutely affected areas. The entire medical fraternity and medical students must be involved in this programme to rejuvenate the health of the community. The medical fraternity needs to be sensitized and suitably augmented to include specific content on toxicology and contemporary crisis of environmental health.

Press Release - Monsanto Quit India Campaign

Press Release


Monsanto Quit India Campaign

Kheti Khurak Azaadi Jatha

9th to 17th August 2011

Kheti Khuraak Azaadi Jatha got massive support by farmers against food and Agriculture Imperialism

Urgent need to form a Grand Coalition of farmers- Consumers to protect Food Sovereignty of Nation

Bathinda, August 11th 2011: Launching a scathing attack on successive governments’ faulty agricultural policies and the increasing corporatisation of our food and farming systems, several farmers’ leaders and environmental activists demanded that political parties in Punjab must spell out their vision and road map for Punjabi farming. They pronounced the government as anti-farmer given its secret deal struck with Monsanto in a Public-Private-Partnership whereby the government is facilitating the expansion of the market for Monsanto, a large American MNC. They also condemned the fact that the government is not taking a pro-active stand against Genetically Modified (GM) seeds even though the ill-effects of intensive models of agriculture with chemicals and GM seeds are there for everyone to see in Punjab.

“While other states are charting out more sustainable pathways of development for their farmers based on lessons of disaster gleaned from Punjab and other such places, it is extremely unfortunate that our policy-makers in the state are unwilling to acknowledge or learn from our mistakes. While the agri-chemicals mistake continues, the danger of GM is being sought to be perpetrated now. For reasons that are unscientific, ill-informed or vested, the Punjab government is not hesitating to take an anti-farmer and anti-Nature stand once again when it comes to GM crops. While other states are disallowing open air field trials of GM crops after taking a considered policy view on the matter, Punjab is reported to be in favor of such trials in the state! There is ample evidence to show that GM crops are hazardous in a variety of ways and particular products like Monsanto’s GM maize, allowed for field trials in the state, pose many health and environmental risks. It is high time that the Punjab government realized that field trials are trials essentially of untested products, with a technology that is living, irreversible and uncontrollable once it is released into the environment even in the name of trials. We demand that the government disallow all such trials in this state”, said Umendra Dutt of Kheti Virasat Mission.

Speakers addressing the Press Conference condemned the partnerships that the state government has entered into with Monsanto, in the name of improving maize productivity. Farmers’ leaders supporting Monsanto Quit India Campaign said, “With regard to Monsanto in particular, the state government should be aware of its long history of crimes against humanity, by its production and marketing of many toxic chemicals and other hazardous products. On its way to becoming the world's largest seed company, Monsanto used several strategies including deploying technology that reduces possibility of farmers re-using their seed, legal frameworks that prevent farmers and researchers free and open access to seed and aggressive, monopolistic market maneuvers that suppressed competition. Monsanto did not shy away from resorting to bribery for getting regulatory approvals. Monsanto had at one point reportedly even stated its goal thus: ‘No food shall be grown that we do not own’, reflecting its profiteering ambitions. This company has not hesitated to sue and jail farmers for the ‘crime’ of saving and re-using seed from their crops and wanted to enforce its patents even in cases of genetic contamination clearly taking away from the affected farmer's rights! Monsanto and its associates have not hesitated to sue governments in this country in pursuit of their profits and markets. How is the government hoping that farmers would benefit from the expansion of this company, its products and markets? What happened to all the investments that went into the public sector research on maize all these years, if they cannot be reached to the farmers?”.

Speakers also announced plans of holding a public debate with all political parties to gauge their depth of understanding and vision for farming in Punjab, in the run up to the elections and hoped that no party would keep away from such a debate. The 4 main questions to be debated in this forum would be: how would the party ensure income security and stability for all farmers of the state?; how would the party ensure environmental sustainability of our productive resources without which farm livelihoods will be jeopardized?; what is the party’s stand on upholding farmers’ rights over their productive resources like land, water and seed?; what is the party’s road map towards promising all citizens safe, diverse and nutritious food?

The Kheti Khurak Azadi Jatha - a caravan around the state to build a people’s movement to protect our food, farmers and freedom has so far covered six districts. Started from Ludhiana on 9th August the Kheti Khuraak Azaadi Jatha would traverse around twelve districts of Punjab before ending on the 17th of August at Malerkotla.