The chemicals used to spray against locusts in Uganda have so far not had any negative impact on the environment, according to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
In their report published on their website on Thursday, NEMA said that an inspection to the locust infested districts this month revealed that there was no instant effect of the pesticides used in spraying against the locusts.
However, the team led by Water and Environment State Minister, Ms Beatrice Anywar and NEMA Executive Director, Dr Tom Okurut observed that the number of butterflies had reduced in some areas where the pesticides were being used.
“There was no immediate impact of the chemicals sprayed; although the team observed a reduced population of butterflies in Komaret and interestingly many birds feeding on the locusts,” the statement said.
The locust invasion in Uganda was classified as an emergency that needed immediate control measures to be initiated. This means the measures were exempted from Environmental Impact Assessment because of the nature of the emergency.
NEMA recommended the use of fenitrothion and malathion pesticides for aerial spraying and cypermethrin, lambdacyhalothrin or chloripyrofos for ground spraying, after the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) consulted the Authority.
According to the provisions under the Rotterdam and the Stockholm Conventions to which Uganda is a signatory, and the NEMA Act, No.5 of 2019, the use of and application of the pesticides is restricted for only controlled spraying in order to minimise environmental hazards.
It is against this backdrop that NEMA and the Ministry of Water and Environment went to assess the impact the pesticides had on the environment.
NEMA inspected Amudat, Nakapiripirit, and Soroti Districts to ascertain compliance regarding the use of pesticides.
Spraying operations have been conducted in the areas of Amudat, Nakapripririt, Soroti, Kaboong, Kotido, Napak and Karenga in the Karamoja region and the areas of Orom and Lamwo in the Acholi sub-region.
The first swarm of locusts entered Uganda on February 9, 2020 through Amudat district.
There are currently 2,000 UPDF soldiers, clustered in 10 groups tasked to spray the locusts under the command of Major General Sam Kavuma.
According to the statement, NEMA will continue conducting rapid assessment of potential impacts of the control exercise and do a risk profiling of the affected areas and periodically sample the soil, water and air for analysis and monitoring.
The Authority has also tasked MAAIF to submit periodic reports and support strategic impact monitoring that shall be undertaken three months after the first spraying.
Following the invasion of locusts from Somalia and Ethiopia through Kenya to Uganda, an Inter-ministerial task force was set up by the Office of the Prime Minister, spearheaded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) with support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa.
This aimed at having a standby team monitoring the situation after FAO described the locusts from the Horn of Africa as the worst in 25 years.