Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

U.S. pushing for poppy eradication by spraying despite potential health problems

As violence continues to escalate in Afghanistan, the United States is pushing for a plan to use an aerial chemical spray on country’s opium-producing poppy fields, IRIN reported last week. President Hamid Karzai is being asked to carry out plans that were previously rejected by his office in 2006.

In 2006, the U.S. posited a plan to spray poppy fields with chemicals. However, the plan was set aside by Karzai due to the likelihood that the chemicals would likely contaminate the water supply. “In rural areas people use stream water for drinking, washing and other purposes. The use of chemicals against poppy fields will contaminate water and that can cause grave consequences for many rural residents,” the Ministry of Public Health argued. “There are also risks of other useful plants being poisoned by the chemicals or farm animals being affected by them.”

Following the reinstitution of the strategy, the U.S. intends to submit new plans which include the use of a ‘safe spray’ that has no side effects. British diplomats are quite skeptical of the aerial spray plans, adding that the U.K. does not support the U.S. proposal.

According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crimes, Afghanistan produced $3.1 billion in opium in 2006, although very little of that money finds its way back to Afghanistan. Previous projects aimed at stemming the production of opium have included a counter narcotics trust fund to encourage farmers to plant alternative crops.

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