Can guppies do what Nimrod couldn’t?

Sarfuddin Ahmed | Update:

Nimrod was only too well aware of mosquitoes! These pests would descend upon the land in swarms, like flocks of the tiny ababil birds, to wipe out his elephants, his horses, his people, his troops, his guards, his sentries -- everything.

A lame mosquito is said to have entered Nimrod's nose, got into his head, reached the chambers of his brain. The brain means the storehouse of intelligence, the hard disk. There the mosquitoes took up raag ahir bhairavi of the patiala gharana, singing incessantly in this head. To put an end to the music, Nimrod ordered someone to strike his head with wooden clogs.

As it was, the music had dimmed his intellect. And now with the hammering of the clogs, he went into permanent sleep mode.

There were mosquitoes before Nimrod and there still are. They are in the air, on the ground, in the water, on the land. They are everywhere, in the sacred books and religious scripts, in poetry and prose, in pantomimes and plays, in the White House and in Bangabhaban.

Mosquitoes are indestructible. They are immortal, imperishable, eternal. They strike fear in the hearts of men, monsters and the mighty gods.

With Nimrod out of the way, the mosquitoes have now turned to Dhaka. These insects are coming up with new gifts one after the other for the people of the capital city. First it was dengue and now its latest bequest is chikungunya. While every point and every joint scream out in pain and suffering, the hapless residents of the city turn their eyes towards the two city corporations. If looks could kill, the two city fathers would have been reduced to a pile of ash by now.

The Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) has given up on all chemical theories and has decided to go eco-friendly. It’s, in other words, an integrated pest management system to destroy the bugs.

The south's mayor Sayeed Khokan has said he is going to release guppy fish in 450 km of drains in his area. He was addressing a seminar on tackling chikungunya and dengue at Stamford University on Monday, when he came up with this brainchild! Equations were calculated at the seminar to explain how the mosquitoes would be annihilated for once and all.

One guppy can consume the larva of 50 mosquitoes in a day. And 1.5 million guppies would be released in the drains.

I started multiplying 1.5 million by 50 in my head, but then stopped midway. The honourable mayor forgot to tell us how many mosquitoes there were in Dhaka city and how many more they gave birth to every day. But he didn’t just stick to rhetoric. He actually released a token amount of baby guppies in the university's swimming pool.

So far we’ve only seen this breed of fish in the aquariums. These colourful little fellows are bought at considerable cost from the pet shops of Katabon. How lucky are the city dwellers! The city drains will now teem with these guppies, gulping down the mosquito larva with gusto, along with other fetid flotsam, nuff said!

Another noteworthy aspect of the guppy project is nutrition. Breeding these fish can meet the nutrition needs of the city folk.

Newspaper reports say that the fumigation carried out by the city corporation is bereft of any effective chemicals. It’s merely big money literally going up in clouds of smoke.

Last fiscal the south city corporation had allocated Tk 11 crore 50 lakh (Tk 115 million) to eradicate mosquitoes. The allocation this year is Tk 25 crore 60 lakh (Tk 256 million). The mosquitoes may not die, but the smoke is going to be doubled for sure! People may be blinded by the fumes. As it is, so many have weak eyesight. They say eating small fish is good for the eyesight, so maybe guppies will prove useful after all. They may even add a little farsight!

Then there is the Dhaka north's mayor Annisul Huq, also determined to win the war against mosquitoes. Speaking to the media he announced, “A proposal has been made to allocate Tk 20 crore (Tk 200 million) for the mosquito eradication programme. We are stepping up our efforts every year. In 2016-17, a total of Tk 17 crore (Tk 170 million) was used to procure equipment and chemicals as well as to clear the water bodies of water hyacinth.” Let’s see if Annisul Huq will add guppies for a bigger budget this time.

The question that looms large right now is, before the guppies actually consume the larva, will the city corporations survive the onslaught of the bigger mosquitoes? The mosquito has already entered the nose, gone on into the head and that means the brain, the storehouse of intellect, the hard disk of moral ethos. It has begun humming the raag ahir bhairavi of the patiala gharana. A wooden clog won’t do the job this time. Surgery is required.

* This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo Bangla online, has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir.

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