How to control the Dengue mosquito in a fail-safe way.
Posted on July 25th, 2016
by Prof. Chandre Dharmawardana, Ottawa, Canada.
Dr. Mareena Thaha Reffai, writng to the Lankaweb on the 24th of July has bemoaned the fact that the
Dengue control program is an “Utter waste of money and Energy“. We can shrug our shoulders and say that this is no big deal considering the waste of public money at every level of government, if not for the fact that human lives are being lost at an increasingly rapid rate. The relevant agencies have published statistics showing that the deaths are increasing inexorably.
It is not the cure of Dengue disease that we are looking at, but the PREVENTION” of the dengue disease.
Government agencies have been harassing people and making criminals out of them, pushing to remove all puddles of water. This is an impossible task in densely populated wet-zone communities, where every nook and cranny can harbour mosquitoes, and potentially add to the dengue threat. The authorities ave fogged the neighbourhoods with chemical vapours, claiming that it will destroy the mosquito. These procedures cost money and don’t work. Why do they consider the spray to be safe? Although there is a well-established fail-safe way to get rid of the dengue mosquito, that has been ignored. Sri Lanka was one of the first nations to have successfully crushed the malaria mosquito in the aftermath of its independence, using DDT and opening up the Rajarata to new settlers, and so it does know how to deal with such parasites.
The use of DDT was banned by the US president Richard Nixon in 1975, to capture the vote of the vociferous California “environmental” lobby. Shortly afterward the WHO also banned the use of DDT as an insecticide, although the main-stream scientific organizations recommend that it be banned ONLY FOR AGRICULTURAL use. DDT kills all insects, be they insects beneficial to us, or dangerous to us, and hence it is not suitable for general use. Scientists suggested that its domestic use be allowed but not its agricultural use. However, the political lobby was too strong and the WHO itself bowed to the US-led line of thinking merely as an expedient,,justifying it pointing to the persistence of DDT in the environment as is does not degrade easily. Of course, plastics that came into general use at that time, even at the level of shopping bags, and many petroleum fuel products, all have the same characteristic of not degrading and persisting in the environment. But this was (and is) ignored by the “environmentalists”. India, the soviet union and China ignored the ban on DDT and continue to use it. India even uses DDT in its tea estates. DDT is present in Indian tea which is imported to Sri Lanka for making up our short-falls in production (but no NGO seems to object to that!).
However, in 2006 the WHO reversed its decision and approved the domestic use of DDT, especially for mosquito control. The domestic use means you mix a few drops of DDT to many gallons of water and spray (as a mist) in every room INSIDE the house, and possibly on the verandah, but NOT outside the house. Such an application every six months is sufficient to ensure that the dengue mosquito will NOT come into the house. Dengue will be controlled effectively and efficiently, at the cost of a fraction of a penny, with NO noticeable negative environmental effect. Malaysia has proposed such a plan of action in regard to its dengue problem.
What prevents Sri Lanka from using such a simple, well-tested solution against the mosquito? Unfortunately, lobby groups and NGOs labeling themselves as champions of the environment, human well-being, promoters of organic foods, promoters of traditional living, politics of a “toxin-free” nation, environmental justice, etc., etc. have enforced themselves on public opinion, mainly by rousing public fear about “toxins” and environmental degradation by the use of “modern technology”. Many of these organizations are backed by upper-class acolytes of internet-medics like Dr. Marcola, or the California-based “truthout.org”, and similar websites, that they follow uncritically, and with evangelical fervor. The snake-oil street -corner medics of yore have been replaced by today’s internet medics and self-styled environmental experts.
Furthermore, unlike scientists, these self-styled “environmental” NGOs have simple explanations to all chronic illnesses. For instance they would have us ban agrochemicals because they are claimed to be the cause of chronic diseases, be it cancer, kidney disease or diabeters (as claimed by them with no evidence). Dr. Marcola, Venerable Rathana, and Minsiter Ranawaka say that Glyphosate is a toxin that should be banned, and so be it! Dr. Jayasumana of Rajarata University (a recent medical graduate), and a Kelaniya lady who claims to hear the voice of God Natha have also identified agrochemicals like glyphosate that they wish to ban. Clearly, evidenced-based action has been replaced by irrational approaches that will not work.
It is easy to show that the onset of chronic disease is anti-correlated with the use of agro-chemicals.
Countries like NewZealand, Malaysia or Singapore which use up to to ten times the agro-chemicals used by dry-zone farmers in Sri Lanka or El Salvador, have no chronic diseas. But the low-end user countries that may even practice traditional agriculture do have chronic diseases! It is easy to show that citronella oil and “Maduruthala” (Ocimum sanctum, a type of Basil plant) based “traditional” solutions will will not work against a deadly foe like the Dengue mosquito. So, let us fight it with the right weapons.
Unfortunately the present fight against Dengue is as irrational as those who claim to hear the voice of “Natha-Deviyo”. DDT is claimed to be an agro-toxin and the NGOs are ready to fight tooth and nail against it. They don’t understand that every substance is a toxin if the recommended dose is exceeded. DDT is NOT a toxin when correctly used. But the NGOs prefer to make dire predictions and propose simplistic political solutions. They need such “fights” to stay solvent and collect funds. Leading members of the Government medical officers trade union are also with the now fashionable “environmental” lobby, and present themselves as eco- heros seemingly fighting for the public good, but actually for furthering their own political stature.
But then, how long should the harassed public continue to allow people to die of Dengue, and how long should we continue to nourish the self-styled “environmental” NGO lobby groups?