Use of harmful pesticides ‘massive’ in country

January 08, 2018

The Kathmandu Post, 8 Jan 2018 

The ‘No Pesticide Use Week’, which concluded on Sunday, might have encouraged some  to avoid use of harmful pesticides, but the country seems to be obsessed with pesticides as the country continues to import thousands of tons of harmful chemicals every year.

According to the data of the Pesticide Registration and Management Division (PRMD), the use of pesticides has not only gone unchecked but also going up every year. The country imported 1,505 tons of pesticides in the fiscal year 2012/13, followed by 1,456 tons (FY 2013/14), 1,596 tons in (FY 2014/15) and 1,500  tons (FY2015/16). The country has spend over Rs 2.2 billion for importing these harmful chemical fertilizers over the period.

“We have been consuming more produce laced with pesticides,” said Ram Krishna Subedi, senior plant protection officer at the Plant Protection Directorate (PPD).

Besides importing a variety of pesticides, including insecticides, fungicides, bactericides, herbicides, rodenticides from different countries, a substantial amount of pesticides, formulated inside the country, have also been used over the years.

What is more concerning is the presence of active ingredients in such pesticides, which kills pests, and is equally dangerous to human beings.

“Active ingredients are the real poisonous substance in the pesticides with harmful consequences to people and animals. Growing import and consumption of active ingredients is the real threat to the public health,” added Subedi.

There has been a significant rise in imports of the pesticides with active ingredients—from 360 tons in FY 2012/13 to 574 tons in FY 2016/17. 

Of the total active ingredients pesticides imported last year, the amount of fungicide was 247.4 tons, followed by insecticide (181 tons), herbicide (134.2 tons) and others 11 tons, which was worth of Rs690 millions, shows the PRMD data.

Despite immense and sustained use of pesticides in the country, Subedi says, the consumption of such hazardous chemicals remains lower in comparison to other countries.

“Consumption is definitely increasing and looks massive, but we are using lesser amount of such chemicals than other countries,” said Subedi. But he warns that reliance on pesticides have continued because of low awareness among farmers and the growing commercialisation of farming.

According to 2015 PPD study, on an average 396 grams of pesticides was used per hectare throughout the country. The use of such chemicals rampant in vegetable farming is more rampant, accounting for nearly 85 to 90 percent of total pesticides use with 1,600 grams of pesticides being sprayed per hectare.

“Our agricultural policy doesn’t allow complete abolition of pesticides use. As the commercial farming, especially of vegetables, is growing, farmers end up using such chemicals haphazardly without consulting technicians about dosage and usage to increase the yield,” observed Subedi, blaming negligence of commercial farmers for putting public at risk.

Subedi advises the vegetable farmers to wait for at least three days before taking their produce to the market. “That will mitigate effects of pesticides to a large extent,” he said.

At present, the government is conducting tests of pesticide levels on agricultural produces at seven places throughout the country–Kalimati in Kathmandu, Sarlahi, Birtamod, Butwal, Nepalgunj Pokhara and Attariya. The country has so far banned 16 types of pesticides.

Also, the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control has also been regularly monitoring quality of fruit and vegetables in its laboratories. On the occasion of the no pesticide use week, the department had also collected samples of agricultural products from different entry points of Kathmandu Valley, said spokesperson Purna Chandra Wasti. “We hardly find traces pesticide substance in products tested at our laboratories,” added Wasti.