August 14, 2013 -- Irrigation can make a big difference in agricultural production and in the lives of farm families. But the artificial application of water may not all be for the better. A new study describes how irrigation can lead to a surge in malaria that can persist for a decade or more.
The malaria parasite is spread by mosquitoes, and mosquitoes like to breed in standing water. So when a previously dry area is irrigated, the disease can take hold.
“What happens is that when you irrigate, there is more, in a sense, more breeding habitats for the mosquito,” explains University of Michigan scientist Mercedes Pascual. She and her colleagues studied areas in northern India’s Gujarat state, where irrigation was introduced at various times. They analyzed how malaria progressed along with the spread of irrigation.
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