•  Spread the word
 •  Contact the author Meet on Punjab enviro-health crisis
Umendra Dutt

26 August 2005

A two-day workshop -- "Peoples' Dialogue on Environmental Health Crisis in Malwa Belt of Punjab" -- was organized by Kheti Virasat Mission at Badal village in Muktsar district on 20-21 August, 2005. Participants felt that agriculture in Malwa in particular has to be rid of agro-chemicals if the situation has to improve, even as there is a need for a community surveillance system to be set in place for further assessing the extent of the environmental health crisis being witnessed there. The meeting concluded with a clear warning that the people of Punjab were sitting on an environmental health disaster and called for urgent action to acknowledge and address the situation.

"I had witnessed more than 200 cases of cancer myself in the past four months in my constituency and the distress is evident. What is needed is immediate action to mitigate the environmental health crisis and to change the agricultural practices on the ground", said Manpreet Badal, MLA, Giddarbaha who supported the organization of the workshop. Badal belongs to the AKALI DAL (BADAL), the main opposition party in Punjab, currently. The MLA added that he would work towards setting up a system for providing treatment and care for cancer patients in his constituency.

Dr S G Kabra of Indian Institute of Health Management and Research (Jaipur), a noted environmental epidemiologist, said that the Punjab government should immediately assess and acknowledge the link between pesticides and cancers as well as the other impacts of pesticides like reproductive health damage, since the indicators available so far suggest that a serious catastrophe is brewing in the region.

The meeting brought more than 75 participants from a wide spectrum of concerned fields like epidemiologists, activists, agriculture scientists, environmental health researchers, elected panchayat leaders, farmers and more. Prominent among them were Mr Ananthapadmanabhan, Executive Director of Greenpeace India, Bangalore; Mr Malwinder Singh, Member Secretary, Punjab Pollution Control Board; Dr D S Brar, Director, Regional Research Station, PAU; Principal Investigator of the PPCB-PGIMER study Dr J S Thakur, Assistant Professor, Department of Community Medicine, PGIMER, Chandigarh; Dr Iyan Biswas, Environmental Scientist, Peoples' Science Institute, DehraDoon; Mr. Sridhar, Co-ordinator, Thanal Environmental Group, Thiruvanantapuram, Kerala, and Kavitha Kuruganti, consultant to the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad.

It was resolved in the workshop that community action must be evolved with active involvement of all stakeholders and concerned institutions –- organic farmers, the state’s agriculture department, health department, Pollution Control Board, industry, educational institutions along with intellectuals, artists and NGOs -- in such a manner that they become partners in ecological crisis management and sustainable development of state.

It was felt that addressing the issue of environmental health crisis requires addressing the contamination and collapse of the whole eco-system in terms of land, water, air and forests. Participants urged the state government to recognize and encourage the civil society initiatives for environmental health crisis mitigation and sustainable development of the state. They asked that the government involve civil society groups in process of decision making, policy issues and grass root implementation.

The workshop is the beginning of a people's initiative for building-up holistic community intervention. Participatory action for regenerating the environment will be the key of any future environmental movement in Punjab.

The meeting concluded by drawing up an action plan on two fronts. One, to mitigate the environmental health crisis and two, to promote sustainable agriculture as the long term solution to the problem. To proceed forward, work would begin on a pilot project supported by MLA Mr Manpreet Badal to be grounded in two villages – Ghaggar in Lambi block and Babbina in Giddarbaha of Muktsar district.

Umendra Dutt
26 Aug 2005

Umendra Dutt is the Executive Director of Kheti Virasat Mission. The workshop was held in Dashmesh Girls Collage. KVM is at Street-5, Hardayal Nagar, JAITU-151202 District Faridkot, Punjab. Tel:+91-01635-230415, 530415.

Citizen Direct is India Together's channel for publishing reports from citizens who have detailed information about specific civil society concerns and matters, by virtue of their participation, association, or independent observation. These reports are therefore as witnessed and understood by the authors themselves; India Together accepts no liability or responsibility for them.   More

 •  Spread the word
 •  Contact the author

Post your comment below, or View Existing Comments (1)

Post a comment
Note: Your post will appear within 24 hours unless found inappropriate (spam, netabuse).
See policy

Remember personal info?

For verification, please enter the security code you see below

Note: Your post will appear within 24 hours unless found inappropriate (spam, netabuse). See policy


  • Posted by Raj Kamal on September 22, 2005 09:53 AM

    I think we need a more precise study on the pesticides levels in blood of punjab people and the number of cancer patients. Due to the loose government monitoring of the pesticide samples the companies are selling anything. I feel we must do a study on the pesticides directly for the levels of intoxicants in them and must ban the pesticide which crosses the levels immidiately.

Post your comment