In a hole

  • 30/10/2003

THERE has been an alarming rise in the incidence of dengue fever in Bangalore this year. The trend is being attributed to the 200 or so abandoned quarry pits, tanks and other receptacles, and numerous unused household wells in Karnataka's capital city. These are proving to be ideal breeding grounds not only for the Aedes aegypti mosquito that causes dengue but also for malarial vector Anopheles stephensi.

While the Malaria Research Centre's (MRC) Bangalore field station stumbled upon the vectors in wells during a survey conducted some time ago, the department of environmental sciences, Bangalore University, has now come out with a report that notes the presence of aedes in pits as well. The MRC is affiliated to the Indian Council of Medical Research and was assisted in its effort by the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF) - a body that comprises local non-governmental organisations, individuals and corporate players, apart from state government officials.

The MRC studied ward number 87 of the Bangalore City Corporation (BCC) to ascertain the extent of the mosquito problem. It was hardly surprised to find swarms of the relatively harmless culex mosquito in the area. But the fact that the locality was infested with stephensi and aedes mosquitoes was a cause for serious concern. Ironically, the recent availability of piped water in the area is indirectly responsible for the current situation since it has rendered the wells redundant. "The prevalence in the entire city can be extrapolated from these findings," warns S K Ghosh, assistant director, MRC, Bangalore, and suggests bio-vector control as a solution.

Meanwhile, Karnataka's department of mines and geology has reportedly begun filling unused pits with soil and waste powder generated from the quarries. For its part, BCC has launched an awareness drive.

The civic body appears to have been spurred by statistics. Last year, 248 cases of dengue were reported in the city. But during 2003, more than 260 cases have already surfaced. Worse, the vector population is increasing at a rate that is even more disquieting.

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