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 Thursday, 16 January, 2003, 10:06 GMT
Bangladesh tackles mosquito crisis
Bangladeshi girl collects firewood to keep warm
Bangladesh is fighting the cold and the mosquitoes

The authorities in Bangladesh are planning an aerial assault against squadrons of mosquitoes which are descending on cities in huge droves.

They plan to use helicopters to spray larvicide on the pests in an attempt to destroy some of the estimated 20 million insects.

We realise that we're up against a stubborn and resilient enemy which sadly will not disappear overnight

Helicopter pilot
But a planned air offensive has already run into difficulties with an argument as to who should bear the expense for the campaign.

The cash-strapped Dhaka City Corporation and the government each reject claims it should be paid for from their budgets.

There are also concerns the offensive may make humans very ill if they breathe the poisonous larvicide.

On hold

Pregnant women and babies are feared to be especially vulnerable.

The campaign has been on hold over the last few weeks, because Dhaka is currently enveloped in thick mist which makes visibility for pilots very poor.

Meanwhile, debate rages as to whether the whole scheme is a waste of money.

Extreme close-up of a mosquito
Mosquitoes breed in local stagnant ponds
With pools of stagnant water all over the country, experts say that Bangladesh is a dream location for mosquitoes, who will only suffer minor casualties in any aerial campaign.

It is thought that millions of the insects come from drains and waterways which will not be targeted in the spraying.

Some entomologists have warned that more friendly insects such as butterflies and bees could become victims of the programme.

But after much debate and numerous resolutions, an agreement has been reached between the city's corporation and a government ministry to let the campaign begin.

'Stubborn'

Helicopter pilots are now on standby.

"We hope it will be possible to bomb them into submission," said one pilot, "but we realise that we're up against a stubborn and resilient enemy which sadly will not disappear overnight."

Wherever you go in Bangladesh, the ubiquitous mosquito is there too.
A Bangladeshi homeless boy wraps his pet dog with the blanket to keep it warm in Dhaka
The mosquitoes have added to the country's problems

Their high pitched buzz is heard everywhere from slums to government offices.

In a country where malaria and dengue fever are present, many Dhaka residents regard the insects as public enemy number one.

But like flood and cyclones, it seems that they are not suddenly going to disappear from the national consciousness.

One was even sighted recently buzzing around the military leader of Burma's head shortly before he held an audience with the Bangladeshi prime minister.

See also:

14 Aug 02 | South Asia
02 Oct 02 | Science/Nature
07 Jan 03 | South Asia
01 Nov 02 | Country profiles
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