Aerial raids on mosquitos?

By Pinaki Roy
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

The Bangladesh government is planning to enlist the services of the air force in the soon-to-be-launched operation to rid Dhaka of mosquitoes. But environmentalists are up in arms about the controversial project in which larvicide will be sprayed on the insects from helicopters (see: 'Pest purge plan', February 15, 2003). In fact, they are set to take to the streets to protest against the aerial offensive.

The air raids -- the brainchild of the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) -- are unlikely to begin before the end of March. The groundswell of opinion, however, is not in favour of this "absurd and unscientific" programme taking off at all. Experts opine that it would just be a waste of the taxpayers' money because the capital's skyline, dotted as it is with high-rises, is not suited for aerial spraying. In any case, larvicide needs to be hand-sprayed in ditches, drains and small ponds, they assert. Environmentalists have expressed serious concern about the effect of the spraying on humans and animals.

Brushing aside these objections, Dhaka mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka reveals: "The DCC plans to spray larvicide and adulticide over the entire city once. If it has the desirable effect, the programme will continue throughout the year." The suggestion to use air force helicopters for the operation, instead of hiring choppers from some other country, was made by Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.

"By the time the mosquito control drive begins, the north-westerly winds would have already blown away the insects," avers entomologist Syed Manjurul Islam. Towhid Uddin Ahmed of Dhaka University thinks it would be much more beneficial to carry out ground fogging.

Abu Naser Khan of the Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (environmental movement of Bangladesh) asserts that since the activist body's pleas against aerial spraying have fallen on deaf ears, it will stage a demonstration.

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