Ensuring Life, Health and Prosperity for Future Generations

> DDT Still a Danger in Uganda

A Ugandan politician and environmentalist laments his government’s decision
to use DDT in fighting malaria.

Date Posted on Global Envision: October 30, 2006

In a paper I published in the Weed Science Journal of East Africa of the
autumn of 1997, on “Fighting the Water Hyacinth without Disaster: Legal and
Environmental Considerations”, I concluded as follows:

“After signing over 10 international environmental protocols and
conventions, Uganda is expected to be a practical advocate for the
protection of nature. Despite the great environmental laws Uganda had passed
both at constitutional and parliamentary levels, her top leaders seem not to
value the international environmental image many people associate her with.”
Uganda will soon lament the application of DDT in fighting malaria if it
goes ahead to implement the program. We should not forget the chemical
dilemma we have been going through in the recent past.

We succeeded in stopping the application of toxic chemicals in fighting the
water hyacinth on Lake Victoria, but we all remember the problems which
followed. As chemical tests on the application of glyphosate and 2.4D were
going on in Kajansi and Wazimenya Bay, unscrupulous fishermen were busy
tapping fish in the easiest way elsewhere using the test chemicals. As a
result of that, Uganda ended up losing her lucrative fish market in Europe.
In other circles, those who ate contaminated fish, especially children,
developed all sorts of body defects; others died.

Uganda will soon lament the application of DDT in fighting malaria if it
goes ahead to implement the program. The chemical dilemma experienced in the
recent past should not be forgotten.

The Ministry of Health recently sponsored Agrosystems Consulting Centre in
Kampala to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) exercise on the
re-introduction of DDT for indoor residual spraying to control malaria in
Uganda. I have looked at that study and what in my view is embodied in the
big volume of work is far from what many would refer to as an assessment
record. It is an environmental impact statement.

It is not based on assessed studies and doesn’t address the constitutional
environmental demands envisaged by Articles 245, 39 the National Objectives
of State Policy XXVII of the Constitution, as well as the Environment Act

In the Seventh Parliament, it is in the record of the Hansard that I once
moved a motion directing the Government to halt the application of DDT in
people’s houses till a thorough EIA has been carried out by NEMA.

The same assessment would have to be subjected to a public hearing. My
second prayer was that the Government avert the use of DDT till an extensive
scientific research study had been carried out. That would necessitate the
consultation of stakeholders like farmers, fish and cereal exporters, water
quality controllers and environmentalists.

The government should avert the use of DDT until an extensive scientific
research study has been carried out.

DDT is one of those notorious pesticides. It was globally outlawed by the
World Health Organisation nearly 40 years ago because of the harm it can
cause to humans, animals, fish, insects, soil and the environment.
The compound is not biodegradable and can cause liver cancer, abnormal
births, blindness, brain distress, genetic defects and impotence. It can
also contaminate the water chain and soils through accumulation and
assimilation in the food chain.

Recently, the World Health Organisation announced that DDT may now be used
for residual spraying in eliminating malaria. The move raises many people’s
eyebrows. Our future is environmentally bleak. NEMA, to which we would run
for help, may not be relied on.

I, therefore, had to write to the Secretary General of the UN, Dr. Kofi
Annan, recently, expressing fear over WHO’s sudden change of opinion over
the application of DDT. First of all spraying DDT in people’s houses is a
new phenomenon. It is a pilot project intended to mitigate the negative
effects DDT may inflict on humans and the environment. I have therefore
appealed to the Dr. Annan to appoint a committee to re-examine WHO’s recent
report on the use of DDT.

I could not imagine that the UN body, knowing the effects of the DDT
compound which led to its global ban over 40 years ago, could change its
stand on the chemical as if its formula had equally changed. DDT is still
carcinogenious and persistent. It is on record that the standards of WHO
have also been changing in recent years.

At one time in the recent past WHO openly apologised to the people of Uganda
for having administered a bad anti-Polio vaccine. As a result of that error,
a number children developed deformities on their bodies, rashes and
irritations, while others died.

We should think twice before allowing the Government to apply DDT in our
houses. If they did, I wonder whether the Queen of England and her entourage
will taste Uganda’s fish delicacies when they come here in November next

Contributed by John Ken Lukyamuzi, President General of the Conservative
Party in Uganda and winner of several global and national environmental
awards. Reprinted with permission from Copyright (c) 2006
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