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Government of Colombia's Ministry of Environment, Housing, and Territorial Development Ruling No. 707


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Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Washington, DC
July 26, 2004

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Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Regional Development
Licences, Permits and Procedures Group
Republic of Colombia
Bogot�, D.C., 26 July 2004

 
Ruling No. 707
 
"Whereby an Evaluation Is Undertaken, on the Basis of Environmental Follow-Up, of Compliance with Environmental Obligations in the Illicit Crop Eradication Program Using Aerial Spraying with the Herbicide Glyphosate - Pecig - and Other Decisions Are Made"

The Adviser to the Office of the Minister - Licences, Permits and Procedures Group -

pursuant to the powers assigned by the Minister of the Environment, Housing and Regional Development under Resolution 0875 dated 23 July 2004, and in furtherance of the provisions stipulated in National Congress Law 99 of 1993, Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Regional Development Decree 1,180 of 2003, National Congress Law 790 of 2002, National Government Decree 0216 of 2003, and Resolution 449 of 2004, and

WHEREAS:

By means of Resolution 1,065 dated 26 November 2001, the Ministry of the Environment imposed the Environmental Management Plan submitted by the NATIONAL NARCOTICS DIVISION (DNE) for the activity known as "Illicit Crop Eradication Program Using Aerial Spraying with Glyphosate" in the country.

By means of Resolution 0108 dated 31 January 2002, the Ministry of the Environment resolved certain motions to set aside against Resolution 1,065 of 2001, and other decisions were made.

Ministry of the Environment Resolution 0099 dated 31 January 2003, partially amended Resolution 1,065 dated 26 November 2001.

Ministry of the Environment Resolution 1,054 dated 30 September 2003 amended Resolution 1,065 dated 26 November 2001 and Resolution 108 dated 31 January 2002 by altering the Environmental Management Plan specifications submitted by the NATIONAL NARCOTICS DIVISION (DNE) for the activity known as "Illicit Crop Eradication Program Using Aerial Spraying with Glyphosate" in the country, under the terms and conditions stated in the premises to and the resolution part of the aforementioned administrative act.

Article Two in the aforementioned Resolution 1,054 of 2003 stated the following.

"The entities listed below shall be responsible for complying with the Environmental Management Plan specifications as modified hereby:

  1. The National Police, Anti-Narcotics Division - DIRAN - is responsible for complying with specifications numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 8. 
  2. The Ministry of Health - National Health Institute, the Ministry of the Interior and Justice, the National Police Anti-Narcotics Division - DIRAN, the National Narcotics Division - DNE, and the Agust�n Codazzi Geographical Institute - IGAC are responsible for complying with specification number 5, based on the activities established therein and in accordance with the resolution part hereof. 
  3. The National Narcotics Division - DNE is responsible for complying with specification number 6.
  4. The Ministry of Social Protection (National Health Institute at national level and Regional Health Divisions in Provinces, Districts and Towns) is responsible for complying with specification number 7".

Pursuant to the evaluation, control and follow-up duties assigned to this Ministry under Law 99 of 1993, the Sector Sustainable Development Division of the Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Regional Development issued a Technical Opinion on 23 July 2004 containing an evaluation of compliance with the management measures established in each of the specifications which make up the Environmental Management Plan for the Illicit Crop Eradication Program Using Aerial Spraying with Glyphosate - PECIG, based on various visits by this Ministry to geographical areas where activities under the program were being carried out, and on the documents and reports submitted by those responsible for executing the program, covering the period October 2003 to June 2004.

The 23 July 2004 opinion was issued as a result of the aforementioned evaluation, and stated the following with respect to the Management Plan.

"(....)
The Environmental Management Plan for the Illicit Crop Eradication Program Using Aerial Spraying with the Herbicide Glyphosate - PECIG - consists of the eight specifications detailed below.

Specification No. 1. Spraying Operations Management Program.
Specification No. 2. Industrial Safety at Operations Bases Program.
Specification No. 3. Solid Waste Management Program.
Specification No. 4. Waste Water Management Program, PECIG Bases
Specification No. 5. Environmental Monitoring Program.
Specification No. 6. Communication and Social Activities Program.
Specification No. 7. Public Health Program
Specification No. 8. Contingency Plan"

On the question of environmental follow-up on the project, the aforementioned 23 July 2004 opinion stated the following.

"(.....)
The evaluation thus seeks to analyse the activities that have been carried out under each specification by comparing them with the objectives set forth in each one, thereby establishing whether or not the respective environmental management measures have been complied with.

Specification No. 1. Spraying Operations Management Program.

Objectives of the Specification

  • To adhere to the technical and environmental procedures and parameters for aerial spraying, which will lead to an effective eradication of illicit crops sown in the country, in accordance with the responsibilities assigned, with a view to seeking protection and conservation of the environment. 
  • To identify, characterise and determine the boundaries of illicit crop areas. 
  • To identify and determine the boundaries of exclusion zones and warning zones. 
  • To verify the effectiveness of the environmental management measures applied during PECIG operations.

Activities Undertaken

The technical parameters established in the Plan relating to flight altitude, maximum mix discharge, dose, envisaged drift, drop size, temperature and wind speed are being adhered to. Operation records make this situation clear, when spraying missions are cancelled because of the prevailing weather conditions. Similarly, calibration reports are to hand for the meters which quantify the volumes of product used for making the mix.

The review of the spray systems fitted to the aircraft has revealed that these operate normally; system maintenance and calibration are undertaken by qualified personnel from the contracting company which actually does the spraying work, and these persons also correct any problems that might arise with the system.

According to information stated in the half-yearly activities report, the National Police, Anti-Narcotics Division - DIRAN - carries out periodic air detection activities for the purpose of identifying both illicit crops and warning or exclusion areas. These detection activities are likewise supported by information from the SIMCI Project [1], which each year draws up a national census of illicit coca crops from satellite image analyses.

_______________

[1] SIMCI - Spanish initials of the Integrated Illicit Crop Monitoring System. United Nations Organisation Drug and Crime Control Project, coordinate at national level by the Ministry of the Interior and Justice.

As far as identification, characterisation and boundary marking activities are concerned, the most recent environmental characterisation to be undertaken was of illicit crops on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, work that was done jointly by the National Park System Special Administration Unit and the National Police, Anti-Narcotics Division - DIRAN. This latter entity has also drawn up earlier characterisation studies of other geographical areas in the country where the Program has operated.

Spraying efficacy verifications and collateral effect evaluations have also been carried out this year in the Guaviare - Meta, Caquet� - Putumayo, Antioquia - C�rdoba and Nari�o areas (two verification activities were undertaken in this latter area, in April and June 2004).

Coca plant death effectiveness figures of more than 85% have been determined from verification of spraying activities in the different areas, in terms of spraying the whole area of the plot and the controlled coca plantation. Non-sprayed coca remainders are plants located at the edges of the plots.

The drift effects that were observed in areas visited on a random basis were temporary in nature and small in extent, and basically consisted of partial defoliation of the canopy of very high trees. No complementary collateral damage from spraying activities was observed at the sites selected and verified.

In sprayed areas that were subsequently abandoned, it was noted that vegetation was starting to grow again, the predominant types being grasses and a number of herbaceous species. In the case of plots that have been totally abandoned and where there is no kind of anthropic activity, advanced successive states such as high stubble, balsawood and secondary forest can be seen.

Photographic records are available of places where verification activities were carried out".

"Specification No. 2. Industrial Safety at Operations Bases Program.

Objective of the Specification

  • To prevent, control and mitigate adverse or undesired events connected with the incorrect handling of agricultural chemicals, fuels, lubricants, equipment, aircraft, land vehicles and machinery.

Activities Undertaken

The procedures for storing and handling the agricultural chemical products used in spraying activities have improved noticeably. Covered areas have been provided at the fixed bases, with concrete floors and contingency systems for dealing with spill emergencies.

At bases where the PECIG operation is sporadic, storage is likewise on hard, shaded surfaces, and mobile systems are used which offer safety when these products are being handled. Agricultural chemicals and fuels are handled in plastic ponds, which means that spills can be contained. Beside these ponds are extinguishers and contingency equipment for dealing with any situation that might arise.

The Anti-Narcotics Division - DIRAN - and its contractors can rely on specialist personnel to maintain all equipment and aircraft used in the Program.

The personnel who handle and mix the agricultural chemicals and load them into the aircraft use the necessary personal protection equipment, which reduces the risk for operators to a minimum and ensures that any contingency will be dealt with correctly. Portable eye baths were found to have been fitted; these had been ordered on earlier visits to other operating bases.

Storage and mixing areas are duly signposted; notices warn of the ban on smoking and eating food in areas where agricultural chemicals are handled, and the need to use personal protection items and to wash hands after handling these products. 'Restricted Area' notices have also been put up.

As far as training is concerned, The Anti-Narcotics Division - DIRAN - has run instruction sessions in first aid, safety and the prevention of risks when using and handling chemical products, and the content of the Eradication Program environmental management plan.

In the occupational health area, it is reported that those members of the police who are involved in the program as mixers are given periodic medical and toxicological tests".

"Specification No. 3. Solid Waste Management Program.

Objective of the Specification

  • To manage solid waste at spraying bases and establish mechanisms for preventing such waste from having effects on the environment.

Activities Undertaken

The company which supplies the herbicide is taking on responsibility for the empty herbicide drums, in the context of controlling the life cycle of its products. It has been noted that some of these drums are being used to build defensive trenches at the fixed bases, after holes have been drilled in them. Empty drums that once contained herbicide are also being used in recycling activities, after treatment in the form of washing and having holes drilled in them.

No domestic solid waste was seen to have been produced at the temporary operating bases, since the personnel involved in the operation are accommodated in hotels, and their food is provided by contractors.

In all cases, ordinary solid waste is collected by the companies that provide the municipal waste collection service.

The Anti-Narcotics Division - DIRAN - designed the "Spraying Base Solid Waste Management Plan", and this is being executed".

"Specification No. 4. Waste Water Management Program, PECIG Bases.

Objective of the Specification

  • To prevent, control and mitigate the possible effects of the production and disposal of waste water.

Activities Undertaken

The San Jos� del Guaviare base, which can be considered the main base for PECIG operations, has its own waste water treatment plant, and this is being studied in order to determine how efficient it is. The final results of this exercise will be submitted to the Ministry for evaluation.

Aircraft are washed at the San Jos� del Guaviare and Larandia bases; there is a plant at this latter base for reusing water from the washing of items used in the process, and this system is handled directly by the National Army.

The processes for dealing with water that comes into contact with agricultural chemicals nevertheless need improving and complementing; one example of this is that at those bases which are used only on a temporary basis, thought could be given to using mobile, polluted-water retention equipment that is connected to the water supply systems used for preparing the mix. This procedure would require solids to be treated previously, in order to prevent the spray system nozzles getting blocked".

"Specification No. 5. Environmental Management Program.

Objectives of the Specification

  • To follow up on PECIG activities, with a view to measuring or evaluating the real impact of these on the environment, especially soils, water and the vegetation cover. 
  • To determine the extent of Glyphosate residues and of its metabolite AMPA in soils and in water, and the possible relationship between those residues and their physical, chemical and biological properties.

Activities Undertaken

On the subject of evaluating the dynamics of vegetation succession in sprayed areas, the National Narcotics Division (DNE) has carried out analyses at various times of the Guaviare - Meta and Norte de Santander areas. The number of existing satellite images was determined in each of these areas, together with the location of spray lines, and the succession was analysed over a period of four years.

One point worth stressing from the general analysis that was carried out as part of this exercise is that the satellite images showed a spectral response of stubble grass and low stubble three months after spraying; at 23 months and 28 days there was a predominance of high stubble, while at 31 months and 16 days there were more significant signs of recovery in the vegetation structure, with secondary forest appearing.

A complementary study to this vegetation cover analysis at various times is being prepared by the SIMCI Project, and will be submitted to the Ministry for evaluation.

With respect to environmental monitoring activities for determining levels of Glyphosate and metabolite AMPA residues, water and soil samples have been taken from the Meta - Guaviare, Caquet� - Putumayo and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta illicit crop areas. The Ministry has constantly followed progress on these activities inherent in the monitoring, and has been part of the sample custody chain.

On the question of soils, the results from the samples collected in the provinces of Guaviare and Putumayo have so far been reported. The analyses were conducted in laboratories abroad, since there are restrictions on performing these activities in national government spheres, in terms of equipment available and standardised protocols.

The national government has envisaged remedying this situation through international cooperation mechanisms, by improving the technological infrastructure at the Agust�n Codazzi Geographical Institute's Soils Laboratory, and training personnel in how to use the necessary equipment and in the relevant laboratory techniques. Part of this training has already been taken by IGAC scientists in the United States, and formalisation is awaited of the agreement for supplying the respective equipment.

On the water question, the samples collected have been analysed by the National Agricultural Materials Laboratory at the Colombian Farming Institute - ICA.

Analysis of Available Results

The most important aspects of the results obtained from the analysis of samples from Guaviare and Putumayo are detailed below.

Soil Samples

The prior existence of the main Glyphosate degradation metabolite on the plots evaluated, before spraying, was corroborated. This finding confirms the use of Glyphosate by farmers to control weeds or vegetation which competes with the coca crop. From this it can also be inferred that the residual levels of Glyphosate and AMPA that were found cannot be entirely attributed to their use by PECIG.

The molecule degrades with time, and the average degradation period that was found was 108 days on the plots sampled; it is then undetectable 200 days after application. The highest degradation rates occur on plots where there has been no anthropic action and the natural regeneration processes have not been interfered with.

After spraying has taken place, the residual quantities of the Glyphosate molecule and AMPA alter at each site; this rise or fall depends on whether the product has been intercepted by the foliage of the illicit crop and the physical and chemical properties of the soil especially the number of clays that are present.

No statistically-significant differences were found for any of the soil properties that were measured before and after the aerial spraying treatment of the coca plants with the herbicide mix. These results mean that neither the Glyphosate nor the surfactant that is added to the mix have any modifying effect on the principal physical and chemical properties of the soil, at least not immediately.

No herbicide effect was observed in the soil; verification enabled the presence of subsistence or coca crops to be corroborated, only weeks after spraying. Evidence of this is to be found in the spraying records, where it can be seen that farming activities, either licit or illicit, are possible with time.

Water Samples

The laboratory analyses processed by ICA show that the levels of Glyphosate molecules and of the metabolite AMPA are below the permissible values in water for human consumption that are established in Decree 475 of 1998. Neither the molecule nor its metabolite was detected at two of the sites monitored, and they are virtually undetectable in lotic water.

Despite the results obtained from this first evaluation of Glyphosate and AMPA residues, environmental monitoring activities should continue as established in the Environmental Management Plan, with the areas subject matter of PECIG being completed".

"Specification No. 6. Communication and Social Activities Program.

Objective of the Specification

  • To develop a group of prevention, training and information activities, aimed at national, regional and local institutions and the different communities, about the nature and scope of PECIG, its results and risks, and the environmental protection measures contained in the Environmental Management Plan.

Activities Undertaken

The National Narcotics Division has its own website, www.cultivosilicitoscolombia.gov.co, which contains information about the environmental, social and economic effects of practices associated with illicit crops and drug trafficking. The website also contains information about regulations and the Eradication Program's environmental management plan. Periodic reviews of this site have resulted in it being noticed that it gets updated and that new technical documents are included by the institution. It is nevertheless felt that matters relating to the process of handling complaints should also be incorporated.

As far as educational communication activities are concerned, it is reported that lectures have been given to Regional Narcotics Councils, provincial drug prevention and control committees and universities, and that these were attended by 580 people. The National Police, meanwhile, gave prevention talks, as part of the Anti-Drug Use/Abuse and Violence Education Campaign, in 485 schools between January and June 2004, reaching a total of 74,083 pupils, 3,987 teachers and 37,025 parents.

In the area of inter-institutional coordination activities, the Plan of Operations for the PECIG Environmental Management Plan has been drawn up in conjunction with DIRAN officers, the National Health Institute, the National Narcotics Division, the United States Embassy's Narcotics Affairs Office, and Program contractors.

Various meetings and technical visits are also reported, to discuss issues relating to implementation of the Environmental Management Plan and improving certain aspects of inter-institutional coordination, so that the specific tasks can be accomplished.

On the question of complaints about alleged damage caused by aerial spraying with the herbicide Glyphosate, DIRAN has submitted periodic lists detailing progress made on dealing with these. The Ministry has accompanied DIRAN and DNE on a number of reconnaissance visits, with a view to verifying a particular complaint and the possible damage. Complaints have been verified this year in the provinces of Nari�o (three activities connected with African palm crops), Guaviare, Arauca, Caquet�, Putumayo, Huila and Santander. As a result of these verification processes, economic compensation has been paid in Nari�o, Putumayo, Santander and Cesar.

According to DIRAN information, no complaints directly related to environmental damage have been made this year.

The National Narcotics Division - DNE - also submitted a report on the field visit by the Colombian delegation from the Colombo-Ecuadorian Scientific and Technical Commission, which is currently evaluating the effects of aerial spraying in frontier zones".

"Specification No. 7. Public Health Program.

Objective of the Specification

  • To develop risk management measures for preventing, mitigating, correcting and offsetting effects on health which could be associated with the aerial spraying of Glyphosate in areas where PECIG operates.

Activities Undertaken

With a view to monitoring the possible short-term effects of Glyphosate on human health, the National Health Institute proposed and set in motion in four provinces (Nari�o, Putumayo, Huila and Tolima) the project entitled "Evaluation of the Effects of Glyphosate and Other Herbicides on Health in Areas of Influence of the Illicit Crop Eradication Program", with an initial budget of around 200 million pesos.

The National Health Institute activities aim to approach the problem from the overall viewpoint, by reinforcing or implementing herbicide poisoning surveillance processes and through institutional coordination with regional entities outside the health sector.

The objectives sought by the project are as follows.

  • To detect possible cases of acute poisoning from herbicides which occur at the same time as aerial Glyphosate spraying activities.
  • To describe the clinical manifestations of human exposure to Glyphosate during aerial spraying. 
  • To typify the exposure of people in sprayed areas to other herbicides.
  • To explore certain attitudes of the people to aerial spraying.

The project is currently in progress, and to date a total of 284 members of the health teams in the aforementioned four provinces, including environmental sanitation technicians and rural health promoters, have received training in diagnosing, managing, preventing and supervising poisoning caused by herbicides and in the research project execution methodology.

One interesting point in the report submitted by the National Health Institute is that only three suspicious cases have been reported since September 2003.

Active cases are currently being sought of people supposedly affected by aerial spraying of the herbicide Glyphosate in the provinces of Putumayo and Magdalena (Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta).

One point that should be stressed in the evaluation of this specification is that, as with the environmental monitoring program, the government has made progress towards firming up an international cooperation agreement which will result in the National Health Institute's laboratory being provided with a mass chromatography facility, so that the process of establishing whether biological and environmental samples contain Glyphosate can be standardised, and also so that it can be established whether any other herbicides that are harmful to public health are present.

The progress made on matters connected with public health is considered adequate".

"Specification No. 8. Contingency Plan.

Objective of the Specification

  • To establish response strategies for dealing with any emergencies that might arise during the different stages when Glyphosate is being handled for purposes of eradicating illicit crops (transportation, storage, handling and spraying).

Activities Undertaken

On the question of compliance with the provisions stated under this specification, the National Narcotics Division - DNE - reports that specific contingency plans have been drawn up for each operating base, where priority issues have been defined, together with response strategies for dealing with emergencies resulting from the transportation, storage, handling and spraying of Glyphosate, and response actions in the event of contingencies arising from the handling of fuels.

Contingent events reported to have happened include a fuel container breaking, the contents of the mix tank being dumped in flight due to harassment of the spraying aircraft or mechanical faults in the equipment, and the downing of one of the aircraft.

It should be stressed that although reports of contingencies that arise are being submitted, closer follow-up is needed of the contingency itself so that feedback can be obtained on the Contingency Plan. With this in mind, the content of the report specifications should be adjusted, and in the specific case of in-flight discharges, the follow-up should be complemented using the verification methodology employed for Specification No. 1 of the Environmental Management Plan".

The aforementioned 23 July 2004 Technical Opinion submitted by the Sector Sustainable Development Division of the Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Regional Development furthermore stated the following on the question of meeting the established environmental obligations during the period between October 2003 and June 2004.

"The entities responsible for executing the Illicit Crop Eradication Program Using Aerial Spraying with the Herbicide Glyphosate - PECIG - are currently complying with the measures established in the Environmental Management Plan imposed by this Ministry, the purpose of which is preventing, mitigating, controlling, offsetting and correcting any possible negative environmental effects or impacts which might result from eradicating illicit crops".

Finally, the 23 July 2004 Technical Opinion detailed a series of requirements, based on the environmental obligations stated in the Environmental Management Plan and the follow-up work done during the period between October 2003 and June 2004, that are to be imposed on the authorities responsible for the Illicit Crop Eradication Program Using Aerial Spraying with the Herbicide Glyphosate in the country, and these will be detailed in the resolution part of this administrative act, after the compliance statement.

Number 14 under Article 5 in Law 99 of 1993 states that the duties of this Ministry include defining and regulating the necessary administrative instruments and mechanisms for preventing and controlling factors which deteriorate the environment, and determining environmental evaluation, follow-up and management criteria for economic activities.

In line with Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Regional Development Resolution 875 dated 23 July 2003, the Specific Manual of General Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Regional Development Duties and Requirements was updated, added to and modified, and the Adviser to the Officer of the Minister was assigned the duty of "signing administrative acts for boosting the procedure for environmental licensing, permits and other environmental control and management instruments".

Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Regional Development Resolution 449 dated 23 April 2004 set up work groups, including the Licences, Permits and Procedures Group, which was assigned the duty of reviewing draft administrative acts connected with the procedure for licences and other environmental authorisations for which this Ministry is responsible.

By virtue of the foregoing,

RESOLVES:

ARTICLE ONE. In line with the Sector Sustainable Development Division of the Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Regional Development Technical Opinion dated 23 July 2004, as stated in the reasoning part of the present administrative act, this Ministry carried out environmental follow-up for the period October 2003 to June 2004 on the "Illicit Crop Eradication Program Using Aerial Spraying with Glyphosate" in the country, for which the NATIONAL NARCOTICS DIVISION - DNE - was responsible, and it is accordingly declared that the environmental obligations stipulated in the Management Plan have been met.

ARTICLE TWO. In accordance with the above declaration, the NATIONAL NARCOTICS DIVISION - DNE - and the NATIONAL POLICE - ANTI-NARCOTICS DIVISION - are hereby ordered, as part of their environmental management duties and with a view to ensuring the continued improvement of PECIG-related activities, to perform the following activities within four (4) months of the present administrative act coming into force.

  1. To evaluate and implement further alternative technologies which will optimise the management and re-use of waste water at bases where the Program operates on a temporary basis (Specification No. 4 - Waste Water). 

  2. To include on the institution's website matters relating to the procedure for dealing with complaints about damage allegedly caused by aerial spraying. (Specification No. 6 - Communication and Social Activities Program). 

  3. To adjust and complement Contingency Plan forms and reports on the question of subsequent follow-up of contingencies and the final evaluation thereof. In the specific case of in-flight discharges, contingency follow-up should be complemented using the verification methodology employed for Specification No. 1 in the Environmental Management Plan. (Specification No. 8 - Contingency Plan).

ARTICLE THREE. The legal representative of the NATIONAL NARCOTICS DIVISION - DNE - and the Director of the NATIONAL POLICE - ANTI-NARCOTICS DIVISION, or the duly-appointed attorneys thereof, are to be notified of the contents of the present Ruling through the Legal Secretary of this Ministry.

ARTICLE FOUR. The legal representative of FUNDEP�BLICO, Ms. CLAUDIA SAMPEDRO TORRES and Mr. H�CTOR SU�REZ, or the duly-appointed attorneys thereof, are to be notified of the contents of the present Ruling through the Legal Secretary of this Ministry.

ARTICLE FIVE. THE OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE NATION - ENVIRONMENTAL AND FARMING AFFAIRS DELEGATE -, THE OMBUDSMAN, THE MINISTRY OF THE INTERIOR AND JUSTICE, THE MINISTRY OF SOCIAL PROTECTION, THE NATIONAL NARCOTICS COUNCIL, THE COLOMBIAN FAMRING INSTITUTE - ICA -, and the Regional and Sustainable Development Autonomous Corporations with jurisdiction in the areas stated herein are to be notified of the contents of the present Ruling through the Legal Secretary of this Ministry.

ARTICLE SIX. Motion to set aside is applicable with respect to this administrative act, and may be filed within five (5) business days of notice being served thereof provided that all legal requirements are met, as stipulated in Articles 50, 51 and 52 in the Administrative Code.

BE IT NOTIFIED, COMMUNICATED AND COMPLIED WITH

(signed)
VANESSA V�LEZ CABAL
Adviser to the Office of the Minister
Licences, Permits and Procedures Group

TECHNICAL OPINION No. ____

PROJECT:       Illicit Crop Eradication Program Using Aerial Spraying with the Herbicide Glyphosate - PECIG

FILE:               793

SUBJECT:       Evaluation of Compliance - PECIG Environmental Management Plan

DATE:              ___________

I. BACKGROUND

By means of Resolution 1,065 of 2001, the Ministry of the Environment, today known as the Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Regional Development, imposed on the National Narcotics Division the Environmental Management Plan for the activity known as "Illicit Crop Eradication Program Using Aerial Spraying with the Herbicide Glyphosate - PECIG" in the country.

Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Regional Development Resolution 1,054 dated 30 September 2003 altered the Environmental Management Plan for the Illicit Crop Eradication Program Using Aerial Spraying with the Herbicide Glyphosate - PECIG, adjusting the specifications for it and delegating execution responsibilities to other state entities.

Pursuant to the evaluation, control and follow-up duties assigned to this Ministry, the object of the present technical opinion is to evaluate compliance with the management measures established under each of the specifications which make up the PECIG Environmental Management Plan for the October 2003 - June 2004 period, based on various visits by this Ministry to the geographical areas of the country where Program activities are being carried out, and also on documents and reports submitted by the parties responsible for executing the Program. Any corrective, additional or complementary measures which might be necessary will be proposed as a result of the evaluation.

II. CONSIDERATIONS

The Environmental Management Plan for the Illicit Crop Eradication Program Using Aerial Spraying with the Herbicide Glyphosate - PECIG consists of eight specifications, as detailed below.
  • Specification No. 1. Spraying Operations Management Program. 
  • Specification No. 2. Industrial Safety at Operations Bases Program. 
  • Specification No. 3. Solid Waste Management Program. 
  • Specification No. 4. Waste Water Management Program, PECIG Bases.
  • Specification No. 5. Environmental Monitoring Program.
  • Specification No. 6. Communication and Social Activities Program.
  • Specification No. 7. Public Health Program.
  • Specification No. 8. Contingency Plan.

The analysis is thus orientated towards analysing the activities that have been carried out under each specification and comparing these with the stated objectives of each one, thereby arriving at a decision as to whether the respective environmental management measures have been complied with or not.

Specification No. 1. Spraying Operations Management Program.

Objectives of the Specification

  • To adhere to the technical and environmental procedures and parameters for aerial spraying, which will lead to an effective eradication of illicit crops sown in the country, in accordance with the responsibilities assigned, with a view to seeking protection and conservation of the environment. 
  • To identify, characterise and determine the boundaries of illicit crop areas. 
  • To identify and determine the boundaries of exclusion zones and warning zones. 
  • To verify the effectiveness of the environmental management measures applied during PECIG operations.

Activities Undertaken

The technical parameters established in the Plan relating to flight altitude, maximum mix discharge, dose, envisaged drift, drop size, temperature and wind speed are being adhered to. Operation records make this situation clear, when spraying missions are cancelled because of the prevailing weather conditions. Similarly, calibration reports are to hand for the meters which quantify the volumes of product used for making the mix.

The review of the spray systems fitted to the aircraft has revealed that these operate normally; system maintenance and calibration are undertaken by qualified personnel from the contracting company which actually does the spraying work, and these persons also correct any problems that might arise with the system.

According to information stated in the half-yearly activities report, the National Police, Anti-Narcotics Division - DIRAN - carries out periodic air detection activities for the purpose of identifying both illicit crops and warning or exclusion areas. These detection activities are likewise supported by information from the SIMCI Project[2], which each year draws up a national census of illicit coca crops from satellite image analyses.

________________

[2] SIMCI - Spanish initials of the Integrated Illicit Crop Monitoring System. United Nations Organisation Drug and Crime Control Project, coordinate at national level by the Ministry of the Interior and Justice.

As far as identification, characterisation and boundary-marking activities are concerned, the most recent environmental characterisation to be undertaken was of illicit crops on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, work that was done jointly by the National Park System Special Administration Unit and the National Police, Anti-Narcotics Division - DIRAN. This latter entity has also drawn up earlier characterisation studies of other geographical areas in the country where the Program has operated.

Spraying efficacy verifications and collateral effect evaluations have also been carried out this year in the Guaviare - Meta, Caquet� - Putumayo, Antioquia - C�rdoba and Nari�o areas (two verification activities were undertaken in this latter area, in April and June 2004).

Coca plant death effectiveness figures of more than 85% have been determined from verification of spraying activities in the different areas, in terms of spraying the whole area of the plot and the controlled coca plantation. Non-sprayed coca remainders are plants located at the edges of the plots.

The drift effects that were observed in areas visited on a random basis were temporary in nature and small in extent, and basically consisted of partial defoliation of the canopy of very high trees. No complementary collateral damage from spraying activities was observed at the sites selected and verified.

In sprayed areas that were subsequently abandoned, it was noted that vegetation was starting to grow again, the predominant types being grasses and a number of herbaceous species. In the case of plots that have been totally abandoned and where there is no kind of anthropic activity, advanced successive states such as high stubble, balsawood and secondary forest can be seen.

Photographic records are available of places where verification activities were carried out.

Specification No. 2. Industrial Safety at Operations Bases Program.

Objective of the Specification

  • To prevent, control and mitigate adverse or undesired events connected with the incorrect handling of agricultural chemicals, fuels, lubricants, equipment, aircraft, land vehicles and machinery.

Activities Undertaken

 The procedures for storing and handling the agricultural chemical products used in spraying activities have improved noticeably. Covered areas have been provided at the fixed bases, with concrete floors and contingency systems for dealing with spill emergencies.

At bases where the PECIG operation is sporadic, storage is likewise on hard, shaded surfaces, and mobile systems are used which offer safety when these products are being handled. Agricultural chemicals and fuels are handled in plastic ponds, which means that spills can be contained. Beside these ponds are extinguishers and contingency equipment for dealing with any situation that might arise.

The Anti-Narcotics Division - DIRAN - and its contractors can rely on specialist personnel to maintain all equipment and aircraft used in the Program.

The personnel who handle and mix the agricultural chemicals and load them into the aircraft use the necessary personal protection equipment, which reduces the risk for operators to a minimum and ensures that any contingency will be dealt with correctly. Portable eye baths were found to have been fitted; these had been ordered on earlier visits to other operating bases.

Storage and mixing areas are duly signposted; notices warn of the ban on smoking and eating food in areas where agricultural chemicals are handled, and the need to use personal protection items and to wash hands after handling these products. 'Restricted Area' notices have also been put up.

As far as training is concerned, the Anti-Narcotics Division - DIRAN - has run instruction sessions in first aid, safety and the prevention of risks when using and handling chemical products, and the content of the Eradication Program environmental management plan.

In the occupational health area, it is reported that those members of the police who are involved in the program as mixers are given periodic medical and toxicological tests.

Specification No. 3. Solid Waste Management Program.

Objective of the Specification

  • To manage solid waste at spraying bases and establish mechanisms for preventing such waste from having effects on the environment.

Activities Undertaken

The company which supplies the herbicide is taking on responsibility for the empty herbicide drums, in the context of controlling the life cycle of its products. It has been noted that some of these drums are being used to build defensive trenches at the fixed bases, after holes have been drilled in them. Empty drums that once contained herbicide are also being used in recycling activities, after treatment in the form of washing and having holes drilled in them.

No domestic solid waste was seen to have been produced at the temporary operating bases, since the personnel involved in the operation are accommodated in hotels, and their food is provided by contractors.

In all cases, ordinary solid waste is collected by the companies that provide the municipal waste collection service.

The Anti-Narcotics Division - DIRAN - designed the "Spraying Base Solid Waste Management Plan", and this is being executed.

Specification No. 4. Waste Water Management Program, PECIG Bases.

Objective of the Specification

  • To prevent, control and mitigate the possible effects of the production and disposal of waste water.

Activities Undertaken

The San Jos� del Guaviare base, which can be considered the main base for PECIG operations, has its own waste water treatment plant, and this is being studied in order to determine how efficient it is. The final results of this exercise will be submitted to the Ministry for evaluation.

Aircraft are washed at the San Jos� del Guaviare and Larandia bases; there is a plant at this latter base for reusing water from the washing of items used in the process, and this system is handled directly by the National Army.

The processes for dealing with water that comes into contact with agricultural chemicals nevertheless need improving and complementing; one example of this is that at those bases which are used only on a temporary basis, thought could be given to using mobile, polluted-water retention equipment that is connected to the water supply systems used for preparing the mix. This procedure would require solids to be treated previously, in order to prevent the spray system nozzles getting blocked.

Specification No. 5. Environmental Management Program.

Objectives of the Specification

  • To follow up on PECIG activities, with a view to measuring or evaluating the real impact of these on the environment, especially soils, water and the vegetation cover. 
  • To determine the extent of Glyphosate residues and of its metabolite AMPA in soils and in water, and the possible relationship between those residues and their physical, chemical and biological properties.

Activities Undertaken

On the subject of evaluating the dynamics of vegetation succession in sprayed areas, DNE has carried out analyses at various times of the Guaviare - Meta and Norte de Santander areas. The number of existing satellite images was determined in each of these areas, together with the location of spray lines, and the succession was analysed over a period of four years.

One point worth stressing from the general analysis that was carried out as part of this exercise is that the satellite images showed a spectral response of stubble grass and low stubble three months after spraying; at 23 months and 28 days there was a predominance of high stubble, while at 31 months and 16 days there were more significant signs of recovery in the vegetation structure, with secondary forest appearing.

A complementary study to this vegetation cover analysis at various times is being prepared by the SIMCI Project, and will be submitted to the Ministry for evaluation.

With respect to environmental monitoring activities for determining levels of Glyphosate and metabolite AMPA residues, water and soil samples have been taken from the Meta - Guaviare, Caquet� - Putumayo and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta illicit crop areas. The Ministry has constantly followed progress on these activities inherent in the monitoring, and has been part of the sample custody chain.

On the question of soils, the results from the samples collected in the provinces of Guaviare and Putumayo have so far been reported. The analyses were conducted in laboratories abroad, since there are restrictions on performing these activities in national government spheres, in terms of equipment available and standardised protocols.

The national government has envisaged remedying this situation through international cooperation mechanisms, by improving the technological infrastructure at the Agust�n Codazzi Geographical Institute's Soils Laboratory, and training personnel in how to use the necessary equipment and in the relevant laboratory techniques. Part of this training has already been taken by IGAC scientists in the United States, and formalisation is awaited of the agreement for supplying the respective equipment.

On the water question, the samples collected have been analysed by the National Agricultural Materials Laboratory at the Colombian Farming Institute - ICA.

Analysis of Available Results

The most important aspects of the results obtained from the analysis of samples from Guaviare and Putumayo are detailed below.

Soil Samples

The prior existence of the main Glyphosate degradation metabolite on the plots evaluated, before spraying, was corroborated. This finding confirms the use of Glyphosate by farmers to control weeds or vegetation which competes with the coca crop. From this it can also be inferred that the residual levels of Glyphosate and AMPA that were found cannot be entirely attributed to their use by PECIG.

The molecule degrades with time, and the average degradation period that was found was 108 days on the plots sampled; it is then undetectable 200 days after application. The highest degradation rates occur on plots where there has been no anthropic action and the natural regeneration processes have not been interfered with.

After spraying has taken place, the residual quantities of the Glyphosate molecule and AMPA alter at each site; this rise or fall depends on whether the product has been intercepted by the foliage of the illicit crop and the physical and chemical properties of the soil especially the number of clays that are present.

No statistically-significant differences were found for any of the soil properties that were measured before and after the aerial spraying treatment of the coca plants with the herbicide mix. These results mean that neither the Glyphosate nor the surfactant that is added to the mix have any modifying effect on the principal physical and chemical properties of the soil, at least not immediately.

No herbicide effect was observed in the soil; verification enabled the presence of subsistence or coca crops to be corroborated, only weeks after spraying. Evidence of this is to be found in the spraying records, where it can be seen that farming activities, either licit or illicit, are possible with time.

Water Samples

The laboratory analyses processed by ICA show that the levels of Glyphosate molecules and of the metabolite AMPA are below the permissible values in water for human consumption that are established in Decree 475 of 1998. Neither the molecule nor its metabolite was detected at two of the sites monitored, and they are virtually undetectable in lotic water.

Despite the results obtained from this first evaluation of Glyphosate and AMPA residues, environmental monitoring activities should continue as established in the Environmental Management Plan, with the areas subject matter of PECIG being completed.

Specification No. 6. Communication and Social Activities Program.

Objective of the Specification

  • To develop a group of prevention, training and information activities, aimed at national, regional and local institutions and the different communities, about the nature and scope of PECIG, its results and risks, and the environmental protection measures contained in the Environmental Management Plan.

Activities Undertaken

The National Narcotics Division has its own website, www.cultivosilicitoscolombia.gov.co, which contains information about the environmental, social and economic effects of practices associated with illicit crops and drug trafficking. The website also contains information about regulations and the Eradication Program's environmental management plan. Periodic reviews of this site have resulted in it being noticed that it gets updated and that new technical documents are included by the institution. It is nevertheless felt that matters relating to the process of handling complaints should also be incorporated.

As far as educational communication activities are concerned, it is reported that lectures have been given to Regional Narcotics Councils, provincial drug prevention and control committees and universities, and that these were attended by 580 people. The National Police, meanwhile, gave prevention talks, as part of the Anti-Drug Use/Abuse and Violence Education Campaign, in 485 schools between January and June 2004, reaching a total of 74,083 pupils, 3,987 teachers and 37,025 parents.

In the area of inter-institutional coordination activities, the Plan of Operations for the PECIG Environmental Management Plan has been drawn up in conjunction with DIRAN officers, the National Health Institute, the National Narcotics Division, the United States Embassy's Narcotics Affairs Office, and Program contractors.

Various meetings and technical visits are also reported, to discuss issues relating to implementation of the Environmental Management Plan and improving certain aspects of inter-institutional coordination, so that the specific tasks can be accomplished.

On the question of complaints about alleged damage caused by aerial spraying with the herbicide Glyphosate, DIRAN has submitted periodic lists detailing progress made on dealing with these. The Ministry has accompanied DIRAN and DNE on a number of reconnaissance visits, with a view to verifying a particular complaint and the possible damage. Complaints have been verified this year in the provinces of Nari�o (three activities connected with African palm crops), Guaviare, Arauca, Caquet�, Putumayo, Huila and Santander. As a result of these verification processes, economic compensation has been paid in Nari�o, Putumayo, Santander and Cesar.

According to DIRAN information, no complaints directly related to environmental damage have been made this year.

DNE also submitted a report on the field visit by the Colombian delegation from the Colombo-Ecuadorian Scientific and Technical Commission, which is currently evaluating the effects of aerial spraying in frontier zones.

Specification No. 7. Public Health Program.

Objective of the Specification

  • To develop risk management measures for preventing, mitigating, correcting and offsetting effects on health which could be associated with the aerial spraying of Glyphosate in areas where PECIG operates.

Activities Undertaken

With a view to monitoring the possible short-term effects of Glyphosate on human health, the National Health Institute proposed and set in motion in four provinces (Nari�o, Putumayo, Huila and Tolima) the project entitled "Evaluation of the Effects of Glyphosate and Other Herbicides on Health in Areas of Influence of the Illicit Crop Eradication Program", with an initial budget of around 200 million pesos.

The National Health Institute activities aim to approach the problem from the overall viewpoint, by reinforcing or implementing herbicide poisoning surveillance processes and through institutional coordination with regional entities outside the health sector.

The objectives sought by the project are as follows.

  • To detect possible cases of acute poisoning from herbicides which occur at the same time as aerial Glyphosate spraying activities.
  • To describe the clinical manifestations of human exposure to Glyphosate during aerial spraying. 
  • To typify the exposure of people in sprayed areas to other herbicides.
  • To explore certain attitudes of the people to aerial spraying.

The project is currently in progress, and to date a total of 284 members of the health teams in the aforementioned four provinces, including environmental sanitation technicians and rural health promoters, have received training in diagnosing, managing, preventing and supervising poisoning caused by herbicides and in the research project execution methodology.

One interesting point in the report submitted by the National Health Institute is that only three suspicious cases have been reported since September 2003.

Active cases are currently being sought of people supposedly affected by aerial spraying of the herbicide Glyphosate in the provinces of Putumayo and Magdalena (Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta).

One point that should be stressed in the evaluation of this specification is that, as with the environmental monitoring program, the government has made progress towards firming up an international cooperation agreement which will result in the National Health Institute's laboratory being provided with a mass chromatography facility, so that the process of establishing whether biological and environmental samples contain Glyphosate can be standardised, and also so that it can be established whether any other herbicides that are harmful to public health are present.

The progress made on matters connected with public health is considered adequate.

Specification No. 8. Contingency Plan.

Objective of the Specification

  • To establish response strategies for dealing with any emergencies that might arise during the different stages when Glyphosate is being handled for purposes of eradicating illicit crops (transportation, storage, handling and spraying).

Activities Undertaken

On the question of compliance with the provisions stated under this specification, DNE reports that specific contingency plans have been drawn up for each operating base, where priority issues have been defined, together with response strategies for dealing with emergencies resulting from the transportation, storage, handling and spraying of Glyphosate, and response actions in the event of contingencies arising from the handling of fuels.

Contingent events reported to have happened include a fuel container breaking, the contents of the mix tank being dumped in flight due to harassment of the spraying aircraft or mechanical faults in the equipment, and the downing of one of the aircraft.

It should be stressed that although reports of contingencies that arise are being submitted, closer follow-up is needed of the contingency itself so that feedback can be obtained on the Contingency Plan. With this in mind, the content of the report specifications should be adjusted, and in the specific case of in-flight discharges, the follow-up should be complemented using the verification methodology employed for Specification No. 1 of the Environmental Management Plan".

III. TECHNICAL OPINION

In line with the technical evaluation described in the 'Considerations' part of the present technical opinion, the Sector Sustainable Development Division of the Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Regional Development is of the opinion that:
  1. The entities responsible for executing the Illicit Crop Eradication Program Using Aerial Spraying with the Herbicide Glyphosate - PECIG - are currently complying with the measures established in the Environmental Management Plan imposed by this Ministry, the purpose of which is preventing, mitigating, controlling, offsetting and correcting any possible negative environmental effects or impacts which might result from eradicating illicit crops. 

  2. Notwithstanding the foregoing, and with a view to ensuring the continued improvement of PECIG-related activities, the National Narcotics Division and the National Police, Anti-Narcotics Division, should, to the extent that their individual powers permit with respect to complying with each specification, attend to the recommendations made by this Ministry, as detailed below, within a period of four (4) months. 

    -- To evaluate and implement further alternative technologies which will optimise the management and re-use of waste water at bases where the Program operates on a temporary basis (Specification No. 4 in the EMP, Waste Water Management Program at PECIG Bases). 


    -- To include on the institution's website matters relating to the procedure for dealing with complaints about damage allegedly caused by aerial spraying. (Specification No. 6 in the EMP - Communication and Social Activities Program). 


    -- T
    o adjust and complement Contingency Plan forms and reports on the question of subsequent follow-up of contingencies and the final evaluation thereof. In the specific case of in-flight discharges, contingency follow-up should be complemented using the verification methodology employed for Specification No. 1 in the Environmental Management Plan. (Specification No. 8 in the EMP - Contingency Plan). 

  3. The Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Regional Development will continue with its follow-up and verification tasks for ensuring that the measures established in the PECIG Environmental Management Plan are complied with.



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