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Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

Tackling one impact of port development: mosquitoes.

Posted By: Kavita Khanna
Date: Thursday, 29 July 1999, at 6:20 p.m.

In Response To: Planning for port development / Dholera-India. (R. Sudarshana)

NEW DANGERS: With reference to the story on Dholera, let's take a closer look at the ugly sequel of the coastal paradise. The sun dispels its hot brightness to all and sundry, the earth blazes like a hot furnace. Men, birds and beasts gasp for breath. A steamy summer sky over Dholera swells into the dark, émigré thunderheads, which herald the new season and, under its breath, calls out the monsoon - a time when life begins anew.

The rain starts. The sky remains overcast. The water level begins to rise. Village ponds are brimming. The vast expanse of water looks like a huge sea dotted here and there by houses looking like tiny islands or coral reefs. In the dried pores and cracks of the land, lie dormant the eggs of one of the greatest scourges - the mosquito. A new generation of the miniature marauders will be born in just a week.

Dholera is attacked by a mighty clan of lethal winged killers. Borne on the shoulders of 'development?' the mosquitoes and the viruses they carry are highhanded and mutated forms. The monsoons do bring life, but could just as easily bring death due to upsurge of vector-borne diseases? Perhaps the tideland deity in fury.

The beginning of this story cannot be dismissed as a mere bedtime story for bleary-eyed children. The parallels between fairy tale and fact are growing rapidly. For, befuddled by the deluge of scary statistics about the dangers lurking in the environment, we seem able to do little besides cluck in confusion.

Development of the coastal regions has to come even if some of the charm of these places go and yet, as the environment gets fouled by the side effects of technology there is a growing sense of unease that we are losing touch with nature.

GOC is witnessing inherent anthropogenic changes such as harbour development etc., which offer enough opportunities for mosquitoes to adapt to newly emerging environmental conditions. Historically as well, the coast has shown dramatic changes in terms of sediment deposition, shoreline migration and changing river courses. The industrial revolution will, however, change the socio-economic face of GOC, but will also set in motion a process of ecological change.

EIISTSTEN LENDER THREAT: The conversion of natural ecosystems will be greater as ecological systems get disturbed and natural resources interfere with sanitation and other infrastructure and cause social and economic dislocation. Thus human health can be a casualty of evolving environmental charges. Extensive ecological changes associated with population growth and development, are conducive not only to the outbreak of vector-borne diseases but also to many other diseases as well.

MONITORING THE CHANGES: How, then, does one tackle this brain-deadening barrage about tumbling skies? One of the ways of doing this is by developing a sceptical approach and by continuous monitoring of the inevitable environmental surprises that await us in years ahead. The study, still in its 'infancy' stage, envisages the impact of growing coastal environmental stresses on ecological dynamics of mosquitoes.

First, the environmental status, parameters and change could be determined by analysing the satellite data in a time series. It will help predict areas and periods with high or low mosquito densities. Second, the standard field methods and archival consultancy would be utilized to understand mosquito ecology and monitoring of fresh vector habitats.

A preliminary GIS-based biogeographic exploration of the relationship between vegetation distribution and environmental variables to predict the distribution of vegetation will help generate integrated models and cumulative maps. This can help minimize the risk of creating un-managed vector habitats, which may occur through development projects, I leave it to time to tell.


1. Environment is rightly linked to the right of life.

2. We work through technology, nature works through us.

3. Inhabitants of areas undergoing water resources development are often worse off after development than before.

4. A shift in thinking from curative to preventive health is now unavoidable.

5. In a kind of lottery-of-life every successful agent has evolved and fine-tuned each detail of its existence to the ecology of its hosts.

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