Kolar: The dilemma continues

Although the MRC's work is still going on, the community remains has not been educated to continue with it
mrc 's scientists demonstrated a dramatic fall in malaria incidence just by applying larvivorous fishes in water bodies in Kolar, Karnataka. After six years of innovative work in Kolar, the mrc is continuing its efforts, wondering what will happen after they wind up operations. "State officials are excited and happy about our work, but it is difficult to say if they will continue it," says V P Sharma.

In 1992-93, work was started in Kamasundaram in district Kolar. At that time, Kolar accounted for 45 per cent of the total malaria incidence in the state. Health officials are quick to put the blame on inadequate ddt spraying. As Kolar has been providing silkworms for the state's silk industry, farmers have resisted ddt spraying due to its adverse impact on silkworms. But mrc scientists believe that migratory labourers from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, who come to work in the silk farms, were the carriers of the disease.

Fish farmers cooperated with the mrc in its efforts as bioenvironmental control posed no hindrance to their livelihood. Ameen Ahmed, a fish farmer in Ratenahalli village, harvested 10 tonnes of Katla , a species of edible river fish, from his tank. The drop in malaria cases was steep. In the 93 villages under the experiment, incidence of malaria dropped from 1,446 cases in 1993 to 381 cases in 1995.

Bioenvironmental methods were also cheap. According to S K Ghosh, malariologist and principal investigator of mrc , Bangalore, in charge of the mrc team in Kolar, the total cost has worked out to Rs 1 per head, excluding the salaries of the staff. The state health department is yet to work out corresponding costs for spraying, but the difference is estimated to be phenomenal. The cost of spraying homes works out to Rs 150-200 each.

Despite the good work, education of local communities on biocontrol methods is still lacking. No efforts have been made by either the state health officials or the scientists to educate local farmers. B S Paresh Kumar, reader at the department of sociology, Mysore University, and volunteer social scientist at the Community Health Cell, a non-governmental organisation, feels that by including social scientists in malaria research teams countrywide, the problem can be tackled at different levels. Ghosh, however, feels a scientific experiment of this nature needs to be proved before it includes the community because negative results would result in misinformation, which would be more damaging.
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