We spend at least Tk5,476 crores every year to kill mosquitoes. Without addressing poor waste management, clogged drains and stagnant waters, the number will continue to go up
On the night of August 20, Amzad Ali, a beggar, was lying on the open space under a government building in the capital's Karwan Bazar area. A mosquito coil was burning beside his legs, emitting smoke to ward off the tiny creatures.
"Whenever I sleep, I use a coil, otherwise I cannot sleep. There are so many mosquitoes, you cannot stay still for a single minute," said 54-year-old Amzad. He spends Tk5 on a mosquito coil every night.
People from every sphere also spend a sizable amount every day to prevent mosquitoes from biting them. The country, meanwhile, spends at least around Tk5,476 crore every year to fight these blood-sucking insects, when accounting for spending on mosquito repellents, bats and nets, as well as the expense incurred by city authorities is spraying different localities.
According to industry insiders, the market for mosquito repellents has been growing at a rate of 18 to 20 percent annually for the last few years, thanks to the Dengue and chikungunya, which have become a scourge in recent years. The health expenditure on dengue and chikungunya make up another significant amount, but for purposes of simplicity, they have been left out of calculation.
"People no longer want to take risks. They are more concerned about their safety. As a result, they are buying more repellent now than before," said Syed Alamgir, managing director of ACI Consumer Brands, which produces insect spray ACI Aerosol.
He said that the mosquito repellent market, comprising a smoke coil, aerosol and vaporiser, is growing every year. People also buy mosquito repellent creams and spray like Purnava, Odomos etc.
"The annual market of mosquito smoke coil is Tk1,480 crore, aerosol Tk200 crore and vaporiser Tk14 crore," Alamgir said.
In rural areas and in the slums, the use of mosquito coil is very high. On the other hand, the lion's share of aerosol and vaporisers are sold in Dhaka city.
The ACI Consumer Brands controls more than 90 percent of the country's Tk200 crore aerosol annual market.
People buy mosquito coils. But only 30 percent of all mosquito coils are branded and they are produced maintaining health rules. The rest of the coils are unbranded.
Meanwhile, mosquito bats are getting popular among people as they consider these electrical bats environment-friendly. Almost all mosquito bats are imported from China.
According to Al Imran, chief executive officer, Home Appliance Division, the annual market size of mosquito bats is around Tk50 crore now.
Al Imran said, "Now we have taken initiative to manufacture mosquito bats in the country. We will start manufacturing in a month or two."
The market size of mosquito nets in the country is also not that small. Industry insiders said every year, people buy around 1.60 mosquito nets to fight the tiny monsters. On average, the lifespan of a mosquito net is around five years.
Khorshed Alam, former director of Bangladesh Textile Mill Association, said the annual market of mosquito net is as high as Tk800 crore. Khorshed, who set up a mosquito net producing factory in 1974, said the price of most of the mosquito nets is between Tk300 to Tk700.
Government expenditure on fight against mosquitoes
The Dhaka North City Corporation has approved a budget of Tk70 crore on mosquito eradication programmes for the fiscal year 2020-21. On the other hand, Dhaka South City Corporation allocated Tk 300 crore for integrated mosquito control work for 2020-2021. Meanwhile, city authorities and local authorities in the remainder of the country also spend a sizable amount on mosquito eradication.
The Ministry of Health is also spending crores of taka to fight mosquito and mosquito-borne diseases.
Dr Afsana Alamgir Khan, deputy programme manager of National Malaria Elimination and Aedes Transmitted Disease Control Programme, said the government has allocated Tk3,053 crore from the GOB fund and Tk9,384 crore from Reimbursable Project Aid under five-year 4th Health, Population and Nutritional Sector Programme (HPNSP) to fight mosquito-borne disease including Malaria in Chittagong Hill Tracts and Cox's Bazar.
Moreover, the Global Fund has been providing interest-free loans since 2010 to fight Malaria. From 2018 to 2020, it provided around Tk228 crore. The government and non-government organisation Brac are spending the money to fight against mosquitoes.
Professor Kabirul Bashar of the Department of Zoology, Jahangirnagar University, conducted a survey in 2007 to see how much money city dwellers spend on mosquito repellents. A total of 3201 households were visited and interviewed in the Dhaka city area in the survey titled "Some socio-demographic factors related to Dengue outbreak in Dhaka city, Bangladesh." The survey found that each household spent on an average Tk233 per month to fight mosquitoes.
The result of spending all this money
A recent DGHS survey shows that 25 wards of the two Dhaka city corporations are at risk of a dengue outbreak amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Nine Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and 16 Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) wards are at risk of a dengue outbreak as the Breteau Index (BI) – a key to measure of Aedes larvae prevalence – in the areas is beyond 20, according to the survey.
The survey titled "Dissemination on Monsoon Aedes Survey-2020" was conducted by DGHS from 19 to 28 July in the two city corporation areas.
Jahangirnagar University's Professor Kabirul Bashar also did a survey in April this year to see the population of adult mosquitoes in the city. He said that the density of adult mosquitos is abnormally high in Dhaka city.
"In some places in the city, we found that a man gets 200 mosquito bites per hour, which is unusually high. Normally, it should be more or less 15 bites," said professor Kabirul Bashar.
In May 2019, a team of International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) researchers found that the insecticides sprayed by the Dhaka city corporations have no effect on the adult mosquitoes because the insecticides have become resistant to the varieties of insect repellent used by the authorities.
The researchers collected Aedes Aegypti and Culex mosquito eggs between September 2017 and February 2018 from different areas of the city and grew the mosquitoes in a laboratory. The research was funded by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In August, The Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) started spraying a new imported insecticide, Malathion, in areas under its jurisdiction to curb the menace of the dengue-spreading Aedes mosquitos.
Gulshan Ara Latifa, honorary professor of the Department of Zoology, Dhaka University, said Dhaka city has a high density of mosquitos.
"One of the major reasons behind the high population of mosquitoes is uncleanliness. The drainage systems of the city corporations remain clogged most of the time. Water gathers and remains stagnant there for days and months as a result mosquitoes find spaces for breeding," said Gulshan Ara Latifa.
Entomologists said Dhaka is one of the most densely populated cities in the world and waste disposal is a very important issue here.
"Bangladesh is a country with lots of rivers and other water bodies. Many water bodies are not maintained for years. As a result, water hyacinth grows in the water bodies, mosquito breeds there," said Gulshan Ara Latifa who is also the president of Zoological Society of Bangladesh.
Professor Kabirul said that the way the two city corporations control mosquitos is wrong. The ideal way to control mosquitoes is to implement Integrated Vector Management. The integrated vector management has four components: environmental management, biological control, chemical control and community engagement.
"Out of the four methods, we only follow the chemical method which involves larvicide and fogging to kill mosquitoes," said Professor Kabirul.
He observed that there is not enough programme arranged to raise awareness among people about mosquitoes. There are no programmes on environmental management. We have to create an environment where mosquitoes will not get any space for breeding. We have to keep the drainage system clean and we have to be careful that no water gathers in any place for a long time.
Biological control means mosquitoes will be brought under control by keeping other animals or species in the mosquito habitat, for example, by releasing guppy fish in the drainage system.
"Some guppy fish were released in the drainage system only once some years back. The number of dragonflies has decreased, they eat mosquitoes too," said professor Kabirul.
In the chemical method, mosquitoes are killed by larvicide. Another chemical method is to kill adult mosquitoes by fogging.
"This is what our government and city corporations are doing for years to bring mosquitoes under control, but that will not do," said Professor Kabirul.
The fourth method is to raise awareness among people so that they took part in the initiative.
"When an integrated approach will be implemented all-year-round, then the government or the city corporation will be successful in controlling mosquitoes. We only use chemicals to control mosquitoes, this is ineffective," said Kabirul Bashar.
Urban experts believe that people would not have to spend on mosquito repellents if we could ensure environmental management efficiently by keeping home and the outsides neat and clean.
Adil Mohammad Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Institute of Planners, said, "If we keep our neighbouring areas neat and clean, if we keep the canals in the city flowing, the population of mosquitoes will not grow that high."