Buğday Association for Supporting Ecological Living has been conducting ‘‘Pesticide Free Towns Turkey’’ Project between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022, funded by European Union Civil Society Dialogue VI Programme, in partnership with Pesticide Action Network Europe, in consultation with Biocidal Occupational and Environmental Health Association (BİYOSİDER) and in collaboration with ‘‘No Pesticides on My Plate Platform’’.
Pesticide Free Towns Turkey aims to reduce pesticide¹ and biocidal product² use in towns and public areas especially by municipalities and to promote environment-friendly alternatives for urban spaces. It draws attention to pesticide and biocidal product use in Turkey, supports municipalities in protecting public health and environment, and in transitioning to greener alternatives.
In order to assess municipalities’ current pesticide applications and their awareness on the subject, a ‘‘Situation Analysis Questionnaire Study’’, which consists of 36 specific questions was carried out. ‘Situation Analysis Report for Pest Management in Turkish Municipalities’’ aims not only to present the conclusions of this analysis, but also to pinpoint common pest management problems faced by our municipalities, to popularize good practices in our country and to shed light on future studies on this issue.
Of 54 departments of 47 municipalities which participated in this study, 21 were metropolitan, 10 were metropolitan sub-provincial, 8 were provincial and 15 were sub-provincial municipalities. 43 municipalities reported that they perform the applications themselves and 11 municipalities reported they perform it through contractors.
According to the results of the questionnaire, the most common fly pests are houseflies, mosquitoes and sand flies; insect pests are ticks, fleas, lice, ants, cockroaches and moths; agricultural pests are aphids, red spider mites, mites in general, fruit flies and fungi. Areas where most biocidal products used – including areas with public access – are green areas, recreational-picnic areas, sewers, streets, waterways-ponds, dumping grounds, playgrounds, animal barns and manure houses, and schools. The most common application methods are spraying (41 municipalities), ULV (25 municipalities) and atomizer (21 municipalities).
Participating municipalities state that the main considerations when choosing and procuring pesticides and other biocidal products are; approval by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, appropriateness for the target organisms and for the areas in question, and human health effects.
Only 27,8% (15) municipalities answered ‘‘yes’’ to the question ‘‘Do you have alternative methods or different pesticides for use in places where relatively vulnerable groups visit, such as playgrounds, sports fields, schools or hospitals?’’ In their detailed explanations they stated that they preferred mechanical control; biologically sourced larvicides, gel formulations; reduced application amounts and if possible, soft soap.
96,3% (52) municipalities stated that they are aware of a number of international studies regarding the use of healthy and environment friendly methods and the necessity of reducing pesticides/biocidal products and converting to alternative techniques. Their primary concerns for the need to change are protecting public health (96,3%) and biodiversity (96,3%). These are followed by protecting water/natural resources (85,2%), personnel/operator safety (74,1%), costs (38,9%), legal compliance (35,2%) and public pressure (9,3%).
Less than half of the participating municipalities (46,3%) stated that they conduct communication and educational activities regarding their pest management operations aimed at the general public. Their informative and educational activities include preparing brochures and posters, on the spot briefings given by relevant staff, social media posts, putting up signs and verbal communication meetings. While 63% reported receiving requests from the citizens regarding pest management, only 3,7% received complaints or suggestions from the local residents during the last year. Municipalities remark that ULV (chemical spraying) applications are not effective at controlling mosquitoes, and efforts should be directed to reducing breeding grounds and focused on larval stage, but since the general public lacks awareness on chemical products, they demand constant ULV applications and municipalities have to answer to this demand.
The participants suggested in the questionnaire that activities such as informing the citizens and using public service ads would help the municipalities improve and facilitate their pest management activities. Municipal efforts have good intentions and are mostly local but a lack of nationwide and systematical approach incorporating public participation is evident.
The research finds out that the municipalities are aware of many non-chemical alternatives, but do not actually apply these alternatives widely. Some of them recently asked for support from universities and provincial health administrations in order to reduce their pesticide use. However, the number of municipalities demonstrating a strong will against chemicals are very low. The research points out municipalities’ need for more encouragement for transitioning to environment friendly pest management methods and projects that will increase the number of such techniques.
Although it is very important to standardize pesticide applications and carry out large scale monitoring to ensure safety of the public and the environment, the fact that only half of the municipalities reported audit visits from Provincial Health Administration demonstrate clearly a need for better record keeping concerning pesticide applications and audits, and for audits themselves, even though these are mandatory by legislation. Also, most of the municipalities interviewed for this report state that they do not use the Environmental Health Information System designed by the Ministry of Health effectively, and in some cases, at all. Another problem that surfaces is the fact that pest management is performed by more than one department in the municipality, and sometimes, even though prohibited by the existing legislation for metropolitan municipalities, performed by more than one sub-provincial municipality and with different approaches.
In recent years, climate change, destruction of natural ecosystems, and an increase in international trade activities and travel have been causing more and more encounters with pests that are not characteristic to local conditions. High-tech tools important for pest management, such as risk mapping are still not common. So, developing and utilizing the latest technology and software in pest management and making these tools more accessible to municipalities is also critical.
To conclude, the research shows that municipalities are clearly aware of the need and willing to use environment friendly, alternative pest management approaches to protect biodiversity, public health and to ensure occupational safety. However, in order to develop a strong approach in environment-friendly pest management, it is critical to establish inter-organizational cooperation, specialist consultations and a centralized guide with supervising authority, harmonize existing legislation with European Union applications, ensure compliance to legal obligations, and utilize technological tools such as centralized risk mapping and early warning systems.
¹ Agricultural poison.
² Biocidal products, through the active ingredient/s that they contain, immobilize, repel, neutralize or destroy so-called harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, virus, fungi and organisms such as cockroaches, ticks, flies, mosquitoes, mice and rats by their chemical and biological effects.