A study published in Malaria Journal, has predicted that one million Africans would catch malaria in 2015, because they live near a large dam.
Solomon Kibret of Australia’s University of New England, the paper’s lead author, said in a statement on Friday that over 80 major new dams were due to be built in sub-Saharan Africa over the next few years.
He said in Nairobi that the construction would lead to an additional 56,000 malaria cases a year.
“While dams clearly bring many benefits contributing to economic growth, poverty alleviation and food security , adverse malaria impacts need to be addressed or they will undermine the sustainability of Africa’s drive for development.
“Efforts must be made to protect people from the killer disease,” he said.
Kibret called for measures to control malaria to be included when dams are being planned.
He said the measures could include drying out shorelines at crucial times, issuing bed nets to local people and introducing fish that eat mosquito larvae to dam reservoirs.
“This is the first time scientists have measured the impact of dams on malaria across the continent.
Matthew McCartney, of the International Water Management Institute, a research organisation, another of the paper’s authors, said over 15 million Africans live within five kilomatres of dam reservoirs.
He said the scientists arrived at this conclusion, after studying almost 1,300 dams and two-thirds of the dams were in malaria-prone areas.
He said Africa was experiencing a surge in dam construction, so as to generate electricity, irrigate crops and store water for fast-growing populations.
“Dams are an important option for governments anxious to develop.
“But it is unethical that people living close to them pay the price of that development through increased suffering and, possibly in extreme cases, loss of life,’’ he said.
Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes, which breed in stagnant water such as shallow puddles along dam shorelines.
It is a major health problem in sub-Saharan Africa, where there are 174 million cases a year.