That the quality of the country's surface water has markedly deteriorated is a matter of great concern. But the nature and extent of the fall in quality was not precisely known. Now the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) has determined through laboratory tests that surface water of different regions is contaminated enough to cause our anxiety. The culprit is none other than toxic chemical pesticides. In some areas the level of chemical particles, including DDT, present in the water is quite alarming.

The water collected from Begumganj has a DDT contamination much higher than the permissible level adjudged by WHO. The presence of other types of chemical particles too has been found to be very high. Even the BAEC's survey is not comprehensive because it has not tested water samples from all across the country.

But at least it is indicative enough. So what is the message? Residues of extremely toxic pesticides in surface water show that such pest-controlling agents are either used indiscriminately, or they are simply the banned types.

We suspect some brands of chemical fertiliser can also contribute to the contamination of water. So there is a need for bringing an end to the marketing of such harmful toxic pesticides and fertiliser in the first place. Contaminated surface water is known to have adversely affected all kinds of water species, the fish in particular.

What is, again, lacking is a scientifically established proof of the damage caused to the water bodies, the living beings there, and the environment. No such attempt has ever been made to determine how long we can continue using the chemical fertiliser and pesticide without inviting an environmental disaster for us. A comprehensive test of the country's water sources can be a first step in that direction. Surely, we need to control pests, but this has to be environment-friendly.

Already arsenic contamination of underground water has posed a serious health problem in some areas of the country and if we pollute the surface water beyond any remedy, we shall be permanently endangering the future of millions. Only a few natural pest management options are known but when the danger from chemical agents is so great, those limited options have to be extended through research and experiments.(Source: The Independent, 21 December 1997.)

Indian probe confirms Coke, Pepsi contain pesticide

A parliamentary probe said Wednesday (4. 02. 04) that soft drinks sold in India by US beverage giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi contained pesticide residue and urged tougher national health standards. The investigation was ordered after a private New Delhi-based environmental group, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), reported in July that 12 of the companies' soft drinks had such high pesticide levels they could lead to cancer and other diseases. "The committee has concluded that CSE stands corroborated on its finding pesticide residues in the soft drinks," the investigation said. But the 184-page report stopped short of telling Indians to avoid the soft drinks and instead called for the country to adopt more stringent safety standards. It said the "eventual goal" should be to eliminate any trace of pesticides in soft drinks sold in India.

"It is prudent to seek complete freedom from pesticide residues in sweetened aereated waters," it added. "The committee has appreciated the whistle-blowing act of CSE in alerting the nation to an issue with major implications." Coca-Cola and Pepsi both deny their drinks pose any health hazards. "Our products manufactured in India are world-class and safe. We follow one quality system across the world," Coca-Cola India said in a statement. The CSE report, which said the fizzy drinks carried a "deadly cocktail of pesticide residues," triggered nationwide protests against Pepsi and Coca-Cola and even a temporary ban on the 12 beverages at the parliament's canteen.

An initial government probe released August 21 found that the 12 soft drinks were "well within the safety limits" of India. But opposition lawmakers demanded a more thorough investigation, leading to the latest study in which two government laboratories researched 36 soft drink samples. India's growing 500 million-dollar-a-year soft drink industry saw sales slide by as much as 15 percent in the month after the CSE report. But the parliamentary probe noted that the billion-plus country still had one of the lowest rates of soft drink consumption at six bottles per person each year compared with 800 in the United States. (AFP, NEW DELHI, February 6, 2004).

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