Indian Pesticide Pollution

The rich West has become used to cheap clothes. Walk into several high street stores and you can find T-shirts for £4 and pairs of jeans for £10.

Much of the cotton used in these garments is grown in India, the second largest producer of cotton in the world – the weather is well suited, labour is cheap and environmental regulations are less stringent (and less stringently enforced) than many other parts of the world.

Unfortunately cotton has many pests, and in order to maintain yields Indian farmers have been resorting to using ever larger quantities of pesticides, particularly as pests have become increasingly resistant. As a result cotton production accounts for more than half of India’s pesticide usage, even though it occupies only 5% of its agricultural land !

this reliance of large quantities of pesticides causes problems, but not only because of the volumes – it is often inappropriately applied by illiterate farmers – often at the wrong times of year, in the wrong weather or using ineffective techniques. Workers are often left unprotected, and regularly exposed to direct contact with high levels of pesticides, with many significant health consequences.

The organochlorine pesticide endosulfan, in particular, is in common use in Indian cotton growing, years after it’s widespread banning throughout most of the rest of the world. Agreement to phase it out was finally reached in 2011, as a result of increasing health concerns.

As with many of the things we buy in the globalized market, we tend to be ignorant of the effects of our consumption on the environment, and most vulnerable around the world – and cheap clothing is no exception. If we want to avoid our clothes being responsible for such far off impacts, we need to research our purchases carefully, buy organic cotton garments more often, buy second hand, or perhaps just consider buying fewer clothes overall . . . just a thought.


Photo by KimberleyKV, via Flickr

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Meet Narayanan Krishnan

A new series of ‘Meet….’ articles focussing on a diverse range of individuals, who are all currently working in their own way to try and make a positive difference in the world.

Krishnan was an award winning chef in a five-star Taj Hotel in Bangalore, when one day he saw an old man living on the street eating his own human waste out of hunger.

Shocked and moved, Krishnan started feeding the man, and then others, and before long had decided to leave his job, and devote all his time and his life savings to feeding the forgotten and uncared for hungry and destitute of his home city Madurai.

He founded the non-profit organisation Akshaya (undecaying or imperishable in Sanskrit), which now feeds over 400 people three meals a day. He takes no salary and for many years slept on the floor of the kitchen where he prepares the food. Akshaya is now also building shelters for Madurai’s homeless.

In 2010 Krishnan was named in the final 10 CNN’s Heroes of the Year.

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The Barefoot College

The Barefoot College was set-up in 1972 by ‘Bunker’ Roy in an abandoned turburculosis sanatorium in Rajasthan, India – envisioned as a coming together of educated, motivated, urban professionals, with the uneducated local rural poor, to transfer skills, but not only from the professionals to the poor farmers, but also the other way around.

It aims to utilise and build on local skills to achieve sustainable people-based participatory solutions, rather than trying to impose knowledge from outside local communities, which might result in dependence and exploitation. Wherever possible it works with marginalised farmers and landless peasants, especially women and children. It offers no qualifications, but focuses on practical learning, the dignity of labour and simple collective living.

The college’s five key principles are equality, collective decision making, decentralisation, self-reliance and austerity – the encouragement of simplicity and balanced life.

Key technical skills taught by the college include water and solar engineering, irrigation and agricultural practice and basic medicine, with former students returning empowered to their own communities to make a transforming positive change.


Photo from Barefoot College