Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Hoovering Africa’s rivers ……….by I.P.A. Manning

News that the wife of the President of the United States will shortly descend upon Zambia in order to personally deliver thousands more insecticide-charged mosquito nets, is cause for considerable alarm. In a harvesting culture, such a simple and deadly gift has already had a major negative impact on fish stocks, and obviously on other beasties like otter and crocodile who survive on fish. And where once we sat for hours escaping the midday heat in a river such as the Luangwa, safe in the knowledge that the local croc would not bother us – nourished as he once was by a plentiful supply of fish, it would be a foolish man to try it now. Everywhere the mosquito net removes the larvae and juvenile fish, the ubiquitous gillnet the rest, aided by the poisoning of rivers with easily obtained cotton insecticides. We even now, God help us, have developed a trade in vulture heads to supply traditional healers and the witchbound. Of course, such poisoning also accounts for the lion, the leopard, the jackal, the civet, the hyena…

Although Zambia has obtained an exemption from the Stockholm Convention for the use of DDT, there is not much sign of a carefully controlled programme of spraying getting under way in the villages of the hinterland. It’s all, I suppose, about the neurosis to give. Why not a net. Sounds good.

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