Mike Pandey Documentary filmmaker on wildlife and environment
News of over 60 children’s death at a hospital in Gorakhpur is alarming. Hundreds of lives have been lost during the past months across India, tragically most of them very young children. Encephalitis, dengue, malaria and chikungunya have returned with the monsoons, with greater force than earlier years, according to some doctors. Moreover, news of Zika, a deadly mosquito-borne virus with no cure spearing its head in Pune, is spreading fast.
In Gorakhpur, over 25,000 young children have died of encephalitis since the first outbreak in 1978. Despite the regular fogging of colonies, villages by government agencies, they are losing the war. No matter what, fresh waves of mosquitoes emerge daily. One of the reasons for the increased density and proliferation of mosquitoes is the absence of its natural bio-eliminators—frogs, toads, dragonflies, water spiders and other life forms that form the food chain of the aquatic ecosystem. For centuries, frogs and toads have kept the vector population under control. No manmade solution can match nature’s natural defence system. But in our greed and ignorance, we fractured the nature’s protective food chain. We ate up most of the frogs, destroyed our wetlands, home of amphibians and aquatic life by building colonies over them, and wiped the rest by poisoning water bodies with pesticides and fertilisers.
In absence of frogs and water spiders, mosquitoes and other water insects and parasites have proliferated. Their larves kept mosquito population under control. Frogs and toads breed during the monsoons—
the same time as mosquitoes—and help maintain aquatic ecosystem.
India, along with Bangladesh, was the largest exporter of frog legs in the world during the ’80s, exporting over 10,000 tonne of frog legs (roughly over 1.5 billion frogs) annually. This led to near total decimation of frogs and toads.
Fortunately, a ban in 1983 put a stop to the mindless harvest of the amphibians. The demand for frog legs still continues. Indonesia is the largest supplier today. Over 5,000 tonne of frogs are still consumed globally.Besides, rampant use of pesticides, chemical effluents and fertilisers have wiped out the frogs and a host of aquatic life forms. The mosquito epidemic is manmade and a direct result of our activities and callousness towards nature and life forms that we share space with. An effective and positive step would be to work towards restoring the aquatic ecosystem and habitat by cutting down on discharge of chemical effluents directly into rivers from factories and illegal industries operating along our rivers and lakes.
India spends crores on anti-malarial drugs and vector-borne diseases annually. Reintroduction of frogs and support species would go a long way in controlling dangerous vectors such as mosquitoes and save humans. The croaking of the tailless amphibians resonating during the monsoons would be confirmation of a much-needed healthy and intact aquatic ecosystem. We need nature’s efficient eradicators to ensure a clean and pristine aquatic ecosystem at no cost and without poisoning our rivers and drinking water. Each and every life form of nature plays an important role in the sustainability of the planet and ultimately our own survival.