Excessive use of chemical fertilizers contaminate
groundwater in Jaffna :
Fast paced agricultural development in the Jaffna District is
evolving into a serious health hazards because of the unchecked use of
chemical fertilizers. Already there has been a marked increase in the
number of kidney patients in the district, attributed to the water being
contaminated with chemicals.
An agro-well contaminated with fertilizer
|A red onion
farmer cultivating his plot
Researcher in Charge of the Jaffna Agriculture Department,
Thirunavukkarasu Karunainathan, confirmed to the Sunday Observer that
the ground water has been contaminated in the areas where chemical and
fertilizer use is high.
Karunainathan warned that high levels of nitrogen in the water could
lead to high incidence of birth defects, especially blue babies. Even
though nitrogen levels in the water is high in certain parts of the
Jaffna District such births have not been reported in the district so
However, he said the use of contaminated water should be minimised.
He said his department conducts soil sampling from time to time in
areas deemed as having high nitrogen deposits.
He also pointed out that people who live in these areas can get this
service on subsidy basis from the Agriculture Department. "The farmers
in these areas are also instructed to reduce the use of fertilizer
containing nitrogen," he added.According Karunainathan, a high
percentage of people in the Jaffna District depend on ground water for
drinking. "Arrangements should be made to give them pure drinking water
in the future."
Parallel to the contamination of water, an acute water shortage is
also being felt in Northern peninsula.
The increase in incidents of kidney disease in the Jaffna District in
the recent past has been attributed to the increase in agricultural
activities and the resultant use of agrochemicals.
High incidents of kidney diseases have been recorded in the district,
Karunainathan confirmed, pointing that the use of chemical fertilizer
usage is increasing markedly because a large sketch of abandoned
cultivable land has come under plough. The cultivation of hybrid items
are also increasing, he said.
When asked about the problems of the Jaffna farmers, Karunainathan
Agriculture Department introduces various varieties of seeds
including hybrid varieties for the farmers in the district every year.
A grape farm
A carrot farmer
The Agriculture Department conducts researches to help the grape
farmers and solutions are found to problems faced by them, he said,
explaining that the farmers are instructed by the Agriculture
Development Officers from time to time on what kind of chemicals to be
used for fungus infected grape plants.A grape farmer who experienced
heavy losses during the last rainy season, said if the climate is
favourable 10,000 kilos of grapes can be harvested per season, and added
that fungus infection also severely affected the cultivation.
Pointing out that maintenance cost exceeds production value, he said
farmers are finding it difficult to settle the bank loans. "Around Rs
3,000 is spent to spray chemicals to 2,000 plants every four days," he
The farmer who did not wish to be identified also cultivates brinjal,
string beans and other crops suitable to the area, in addition to
grapes.For the past two to three years, the income from the cultivation
was low, he said urging the relevant authorities to extend a helping
hand to farmers in the District.
He also said farmers must be encouraged to use composed fertilizers
in the cultivation process instead of agrochemicals, pointing out that
this was one way to prevent the contamination of ground water.
Sinnappu Sivanesan, another farmer who had been cultivating red
onion, tomato and grapes for the past five years and earns sufficient
income from the cultivation, also believes the use of agrochemicals must
"The relevant authorities should come forward to introduce
environment friendly fertilizers. If such a mechanism was introduced
health hazards caused to people by the use of chemicals can be
prevented," Sivanesan said adding the Agriculture Department has
recommended certain insecticides during high rain fall season. From time
to time we clean the plants by spraying water.