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Govt fishes for frogs to tackle mosquito menace

PAGE ONE Indian Express Newsline Delhi

Will approach neighbouring states to get the ‘natural predators’
Teena Thacker
New Delhi, June 20: With ‘dengue season’ round the corner, the Delhi government is fishing for frogs to tackle the aedes mosquito menace.
With guppy and gumbusia fish failing to stem mosquito breeding in water bodies across the city, and an alarming 45 per cent increase in the density of mosquitoes, the government is now banking on frogs to contain dengue-spreading mosquito.
In a recent letter, the Ministry of Environment and Forest has asked the Delhi government to restore these natural predators (frogs), also referred to as “levelers”, to get rid of aedes mosquito.
The search began at Jama Masjid. “A shopkeeper there told us that he could get us frogs, but it would cost us Rs 3,500 per frog,” a health department official said. “This was too expensive.” The other option was the Yamuna. Conservationist Mike Pandey spent eight days near the river last week looking for frogs and filming the Yamuna for his series on climate change. “I found none,” he said. “In 1985, I saw many healthy frogs. In 1988, the frogs were fewer and smaller in size. Now there are none.”
With hardly any frogs left in the 500-odd water bodies in Delhi, officials are now zeroing in on areas in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Haryana where frogs are available “aplenty”, a health department official said. “We will soon get in touch with farmers there and request them to help us catch frogs from their farmlands or wetlands,” the official said.
The urgency is highlighted by the fact that a National Institute of Malaria Research (NIMR) study found substantial rise in mosquito breeding in Delhi. “The survey to check the growth of breeding is done regularly in Delhi and this time it was found that the growth rate has gone up in various areas,” NIMR director Prof A P Dash said. According to the institute’s findings, the rate of growth has gone up from last year’s 12 per cent to 45 per cent this year. Over 3,000 dengue cases were reported last year in Delhi, and doctors expect more cases this year. “They (frogs) are great consumers of larvae but we have killed them ourselves,” Pandey said. He said their rate of breeding would also be beneficial. “At any given time, one frog produces between 2,000 to10,000 tadpoles, depending on their age. Their long, flexible tongue also enables them to catch more mosquitoes.
“They need pure eco-systems to live in so it becomes necessary for the authorities to at least get the water cleaned to get them back from where they disappeared.”
Dr PL Joshi, former director of the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, said, “The density of mosquito has increased tremendously, so the idea (of introducing frogs in water bodies) will prove effective.”
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