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Heal Toxics is a member of the International POPs Elimination Network

This website provides resources on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) such as pesticides, dioxins, PCBs, and wastes. Valuable examples of community monitoring of health and environmental impacts of toxic chemicals are also furnished.

Further, there is an entire section devoted to chemical safety in its proper socio-political context or in relation to issues such as globalization and people's empowerment.

 

No Pesticides Use Day: Remembering Bhopal - 20 years of struggle

by THANAL

This year, THANAL along with PAN AP and SEWA organised a “No Pesticide Use” day and declared solidarity and continuing support to the struggle in Bhopal against the corporate criminals who have destroyed life with their chemicals and profits. The meeting was an awareness building as well as sharing session and was attended by 25 women from the Zero Waste Kovalam programme and 40 women from the Vilappilsala, Sustainable Settlement Patterns programme.

The meeting was held at SEWA's Rural Centre at Vilappilsala, a village which saw the worst struggle by the local community against a Garbage plant from coming up there. The public uprising was beaten down in 2001 and the plant had come up, destroying water sources and affecting the health of the people living around the plant.

The Zero Waste Kovalam programme looks at sustainable ways of materials use and avoiding waste from happening. This holistic programme has in its emphasis jobs from discards and wealth from waste but without polluting and through ecologically sensitive materials use.

The Sustainable Settlement Patterns programme at Vilappilsala is run by SEWA and supported by Thanal. This programme looks at strengthening local self governance and developing local norms through capacity building in water conservation, healthy farming, sustainable and local energy and Sustainable livelihoods.

The “No Pesticides Use” day remembrance started with Rajasree V V from Thanal introducing the women to the Importance of the day and why we are remembering Bhopal. After this the women saw a film on Bhopal, where they were visibly affected by the statements of Rasheeda Bi and Champa Devi while receiving the Goldman Prize. Usha S from Thanal then spoke about the relevance of the Bhopal day as a “No Pesticide Use” day. This was important as both the areas were going through Sustainable farming programmes and were moving towards stopping pesticide use. A Malayalam translation of the experience of Azeeza Sulthan of Sambhavana Trust was also distributed to all the participants. A campaign card on “Ban Endosulfan” was also distributed.

The next in the agenda was a group discussion, where the women went into four groups and discussed on the following issues “What do we feel about the Bhopal and the day?” “What can we do as individuals/families and collectively as a community to support the struggle in Bhopal and to avoid Bhopals from happening in our lives?”
The groups discussed for nearly an hour and came back to the floor with some of the most fundamental of decisions and suggestions. When they presented the discussions, many a time the floor approved it applauding spontaneously.

The following were the major decisions from the group discussions:

1. The Bhopal tragedy has affected all of us. The struggle is giving us renewed hope to take on our fight against the injustice meted out to us, through the Garbage plant. If they can succeed against all odds why can’t we?

2. That Bhopal happened because people did not know that they were living near a disaster waiting to happen. So, WE NEED TO KNOW. To gain Information, to spread AWARENESS and to build capacities to ACT is important. (A parallel was drawn to the Garbage plant in the area)

3. Most of these problems are not our own making, but thrust upon us by the governments and private profiteers. Even as we have to gain capacities to question their decisions and actions, we need to change our lives and lifestyles so that we will have better power to speak out. This means we have to phase out plastics, chemicals and other unsafe products from our lives – to make our homes and children safer and healthier.

4. We need to move away from chemical use in Farming and other household purposes, and adopt organic ways of farming and living.

5. We have to plan and work for the future. When we die, our children should also know these, so we have to make them also aware of these so that they also continue our efforts to make the world safe. (One child who was present said that he wants to be a model for showing that organic farming can be done successfully)

6. Plastics are a huge crisis in our lives and we must stop/ban its use. We have to start using Sustainable alternatives, such as a paper / cloth.

7. We should decide to act by not voting in the next elections in protest against the poisoning of the land by the Garbage plant.

8. Chemical medicines are also like pesticides, and we should revive the traditional plant based healing knowledge and techniques to treat our children and our families.

9. Our children are the most affected as they take to the school hot food in plastic containers and plastic water bottles. We should make food safe for them, by using metal containers and demand that good drinking water be supplied in the schools.

10. One of the worst habits of Kerala is Gold and it has become an obsession. But it is understood that mining of Gold is itself a Bhopal happening. We should shun the use of gold.

11. We have lost the relationships in our society which is why Bhopals are happening. We should teach our children relationships and why to nurture them.

12. Waste is a serious issue which we cannot solve locally, moreover it is not justified at all. So, we should ask all the companies responsible for making them to take it back.

13. Television has become an entertainer that is taking life out of our villages and making our women and children complacent and lazy. We should stop becoming slaves of this equipment.

14. We want to test the soil, water and health of those affected by the Garbage plant. We should use this to fight the plant.

15. Bhopal's are happening because we have the habit of buying and using what we do not actually need. WE should identify such materials and stop its use.

After this the meeting broke for lunch. Post lunch, we had two films shown on the topic of “The Bhopal's around us”. One was on the Endosulfan poisoning in Kasaragod and the other was the “Wheeping Rice Bowl” a film on the Kuttanad and the fall of the paddy culture. Both these films were given to us by Centre for Development of Imaging Technology (C-DIT), an autonomous institution based in Thiruvananthapuram.

After the films, Usha spoke on the films and widened the frame of the Bhopal tragedy to our lives. She spoke in large about the Kuttanad and how we are losing our food, poisoning ourselves and how and why we need to respond to the same.

The last session was led by Sridhar of Thanal who brought the focus back to the work we were doing at both Kovalam and Vilappilsala and the larger importance of such a work in the back drop of such environmental disasters.

The women then declared their unstinting support to the struggle and activities in Bhopal, especially to Champa Devi and Rasheeda Bi and all the others who have kept this 20 year struggle on. They declared that this struggle is making them all the more hopeful and strong to fight against their own problem factory in their area. The women also declared support to all the demands of the Bhopal Gas victims and prayed to God for giving the victims and the crusaders more strength to fight and succeed in the struggle.

The meeting ended in a note of great hope. Because as is the general custom, we did not maintain silence in remembrance, but spent two-minutes silently praying for the struggle and for hope and success to prevail in all the actions that are being taken for the survivors.

©heal toxics, 2003
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