Environment conservationists have cautioned the Ministry of Agriculture against giving permission to a Chinese investor allowing him to kill wild birds in Lwera wetland, Kalungu district along the Kampala-Masaka highway.
Last month, Chinese Investors trading as Zhong Industries Limited, formally applied to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries for permission to use an aerial spray to kill Quelea pest-birds, which they say are a big disaster to their rice plantation project in Lwera.
In a letter URN has seen, the investor says that the birds have made it a routine to invade their rice plantations, and causing huge financial losses to the company.
“These birds have almost destroyed 50% of our daily rice yields making business operation and going forward very hard with unmeasured loses ranging from low yields, added on other fixed farm expenses like salaries to workers, machinery operations that are always paid and incurred with nothing almost zero yields,” the letters reads in part.
The investor who in his letter claims to be the biggest single employer in Kalungu district, with 500 laborers, asked the Ministry of Agriculture to allow them to spray to death the pest-birds to enable the company to overcome losses.
However, local environmentalists under their umbrella of Biodiversity Conservation Foundation-BCF, have also written a protest letter to the Ministry of Agriculture demanding that the investors’ application be disregarded with contempt.
Antonio Kalyango, the Executive Director of BCF, has also petitioned the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA, seeking to block an application by the investor, describing the request as harmful to biodiversity.
Kalyango argues that the investor is going to use poisonous chemicals that will indiscriminately kill other bird species and animals that use Lwera as their natural habitat. He indicates that the ongoing growing rice in Lwera wetland has already been polluting the swamp and its waters with artificial fertilizers and herbicides.
According to Kalyango, allowing the investor to use aerial spraying to kill highly mobile birds will be granting him permission to continue destroying the environment.
The Queleas which are classified as a group of small weaver birds native to sub-Saharan Africa are categorized as pest-birds, known to cause considerable damage to a variety of crops, but they also help to destroy insects feasting on crops and also consume rodents.
Their consequences notwithstanding, conservationists indicate that the investor can still effectively manage them without employing methods that are less destructive to the environment and the ecosystem.
Kalyango threatens that they may be compelled to call for a massive protest in the area, should the government proceed to grant permission to the Chinese investor to kill the birds. They also indicate that the Quelea birds are not alien to Lwera wetland and the neighboring swamps adjacent to Lake Victoria, arguing that the investor invaded their known habitats and should find a way of coexisting other than seeking to eliminate them.
Victor Mpinga, the Project’s Community Liaisons and Communication Officer at Zhong Industries Limited, argues that the idea of spraying the birds is not their company’s innovation but a pest control method considered by the Ministry of Agriculture.
He explains that the investor is only seeking to replicate a technology of pests’ management from areas it has been employed with the approval of the Ministry, wondering why the environmentalists are only concerned about the projects in Lwera.
In August this year, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Frank Tumwebaze commissioned an aircraft that to support the aerial spraying of quelea birds in rice plantations in Soroti district.