Dams are a breeding ground for mosquitoes - to eradicate malaria, we must rethink their design
By Claudia Sadoff
Despite a 40 per cent decline in transmission of the disease since 2000, research shows that its occurrence near large dams is set to intensify.
New research conducted by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) shows how this can be done successfully, demonstrating that smart dam design and operation can reduce malaria incidence in the surrounding area, without compromising important economic benefits.
Using remote sensing, scientists can now determine the exact perimeter of reservoirs created by dams, taking into account the role that rainfall, temperature and shoreline slopes will play in malaria transmission. So how can dams be located, designed and managed, so that they do not undermine efforts to combat malaria?
According to the research, the slope of the reservoir accounts for nearly half of the dam’s effect on malaria. Gentler, more shallow slopes result in much greater disease transmission, because they permit puddles to form more easily.
The second step, which can be applied to existing dams, is to consider how it is operated, to influence water levels at critical times for malaria transmission.