New Delhi: Alarmed by the "steep" decline in the vulture population in India and to protect the bird from "extinction", the government has banned the multidose vial of anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac, which is used for cattle.
The multidose variant of the drug, which is harmless when administered to cattle, is fatal for vultures, who routinely feed on the carcass of dead cattle.
Studies have shown that the drug causes kidney and liver failure in vultures, leading to their death.
The Union Environment Ministry said that the commonly-used anti-inflammatory cattle drug is considered to be the "chief" cause for the "steep" decline in the numbers of vultures in recent years.
"Keeping in view the severity of the situation and the need to conserve and protect vultures from extinction, the Environment Ministry has requested the Health Ministry to restrict the pack of diclofenac for human use in single dose only," an official statement said.
Earlier, the Environment Ministry, in consultation with Health Ministry, had published a Gazette notification on July 17 restricting the packaging of diclofenac exclusively to single dose for human use.
"Even after banning the use of diclofenac for veterinary use, the multi-dose vials available in the market for human use were widely misused for veterinary purpose. This in turn has had a severe impact on the population of vultures," the Environment Ministry said.
The government had in 2006 imposed a ban on the use of diclofenac for treating cattle. Conservationists have been advocating a ban on the drug since it was linked to a decline in the population of the birds in South Asia, including India, where the vulture population has come down drastically.