x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 September 2017

Greener pest-control methods working well

Centre for Waste Management says its focus is now on the prevention of pest outbreaks and a shift away from the use of chemicals.

A National Pest Control employee uses environmentally friendly pesticides while at work at Palm Oasis Villas in Abu Dhabi this week.
A National Pest Control employee uses environmentally friendly pesticides while at work at Palm Oasis Villas in Abu Dhabi this week.

ABU DHABI // A campaign introduced in the capital this year to cut down on the use of chemicals has not hindered pest-control efforts, officials said this week.

While this seems to vindicate the use of environmentally friendly pesticides, some in the industry say the new rules are not being universally observed.

Overall, residential pest populations - including rodents, ants and cockroaches - have dropped in the past few years, though companies are still struggling to control pests in industrial areas and in labour camps.

The new regulations from the Centre for Waste Management (CWM), which has overseen and monitored pest-control contractors since 2008, and the Ministry of Environment and Water limit the kinds of products companies can use to combat infestations.

"We are reducing as much as possible the use of chemicals," said Ibrahim Abdul Majeed, a pest control contracts manager at CWM. "We're more about prevention than control and the trend is how to prevent pests, and the last choice is chemicals."

The use of agricultural pesticides and chemical fertilisers has already been restricted by the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority. Certain pest-control chemicals can only be purchased by companies licensed with the Department of Economic Development and the procured amount is monitored.

The shift away from chemicals, which was initiated by CWM earlier this year, is part of a push to use green and environmentally-friendly products. Chemical-based products can be highly toxicas well as causing contamination to groundwater and other forms of environmental damage.

"Everyone is going green," said Dinesh Ramachandran, the technical director at National Pest Control. "We have to look at alternatives, and we are constantly researching and trying to bring in organic products."

Mr Ramachandran said that the non-chemical alternatives are only slightly more expensive and have been proven to be just as effective.

The US Environmental Protection Agency warns against using chemical pesticides in its Citizen's Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety. "The results achieved by using chemical pesticides are generally temporary, and repeated treatments may be required," it states. "Over time some pests become pesticide resistant, meaning they adapt to the chemical and are no longer harmed by it."

In the UAE, distributors are encouraged to provide only government-approved eco-products.

Omar Al Shoubaki, a pest control contracts manager at CWM, said approved pesticides should be water-based and not petroleum-based.

"We've asked contractors to use these environmentally friendly products because they are less dangerous to humans," Mr Al Shoubaki said.

However, one Abu Dhabi-based pest control company's manager said not everyone is following the new rules.

"Without chemicals, how can we do our jobs?" the manager said. "We only use approved products that are safe for home use and for humans, but some companies are still using agricultural chemicals that are very dangerous."

He said the reluctance to switch to new standards was based on price concerns. "It's cheaper to spray pesticides, maybe Dh100," he said. "But the approved chemicals are maybe Dh150."

Pest-control officials and companies said complaints on Abu Dhabi island have declined significantly this year, but infestations in industrial areas, particularly of bedbugs, is a growing concern.

"Bedbugs are what's worrying me," Mr Ramachandran said. "Bedbugs are on the rise, and we have seen a huge increase in the number of bedbug jobs we've been receiving."

Rodents are an issue in areas where buildings are under construction or have been newly built. Cockroaches are a persistent problem in all areas, but their populations have been controlled in domestic areas.

The centre is also concentrating on eliminating breeding areas for mosquitoes and flies, which need stagnant water to reproduce.

Next year, CWM plans to further improve chemical-use regulations as part of continuing education and outreach initiatives.

jthomas@thenational.ae