Malaysia: Illegal pesticide use rampant in Cameron Highlands; toxins entering water supply

FERNANDO FONG New Straits Times 1 Apr 18;

BRINCHANG: The rampant use of illegal pesticides for farming continues unabated in Cameron Highlands, giving rise to health and environmental concerns.

Regional Environmental Awareness of Cameron Highlands (Reach) president Ramakrishnan Ramasamy said illegal pesticides are sold openly in the area; and although the issue has been highlighted before, no action has been taken.

“No one has been prosecuted for selling or using banned pesticides.

“This is despite the fact that using banned pesticides is punishable under the law,” he told the New Straits Times.

Anyone who possesses or uses pesticides not registered in the Pesticides Act is liable to a RM10,000 fine or a jail term of up to one year.

Ramasamy said usage has become so pervasive that many farmers themselves do not eat the vegetables they grow for sale, as they are aware of the effects of the banned pesticides.

The water supply is tainted

Ramasamy said that the biggest cause for alarm is that the pesticides are making their way into the water supply.

He said this is based on studies by local universities on rivers in the Bertam Valley, Kuala Terla and the district’s tap water.

Among the pesticides discovered is the deadly Endosulfan, a highly acute toxin and a suspected endocrine disruptor banned in 2005 under the Pesticides Act.

“Farmers prefer banned pesticides, as they are cheaper and more powerful.

“It doesn’t help that foreign workers, who often cannot read labels, do not (disperse) the pesticides in the right concentration,” he added.

Ramasamy revealed that banned pesticides are often sold using coded names, such as 'Hennessy’.

They are usually kept under the counter of certain shops and stalls, and sold only to regular customers.

“The authorities should take action to minimise exposure.

“They should conduct laboratory testing on the pesticides to verify their chemical contents,” he added.

Other steps that could be taken include relocating farmers from water catchment areas in Kuala Terla to other parts of the district.