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Filthy towns weaken mosquitoes

By GATONYE GATHURA
Posted Tuesday, May 4 2010 at 21:00

Mosquitoes living in a highly polluted urban environment in Kisumu and Malindi have weaker survival and reproduction abilities.
Scientists at Egerton University in Njoro are now investigating if this has reduced the mosquitoes’ capacity to transmit malaria.
Heavily polluted
The study carried out in Kisumu and Malindi found that mosquitoes there have adapted to surviving in heavily polluted water littered with heavy metals, but they are paying a steep price in terms of their biological wellbeing.
Dr P. Mireji, the lead researcher, said heavy metal pollutants caused the mosquitoes to produce fewer eggs.
The study, which was presented on Tuesday at the ongoing National Scientific Conference in Nairobi, was investigating how the new knowledge can be used to fight malaria.
But mosquitoes may not be the biggest problem for people living in Nairobi. When scientists from the University of Nairobi looked at weather patterns since 1980, they concluded that temperatures had risen, causing what they call an “urban heat island.”
Researcher V. Ongoma suggests that to reverse this, the amount of green areas in the city must be increased.
The one-week conference, sponsored by the National Council for Science and Technology, covers three years since the government embarked on funding local researchers to develop home grown solutions to current problems.
And in a separate development, the Kenya Forestry Research Institute said it had found a way of saving the much poached sandalwood tree and even make it a money making cash crop.
Bernard Kamondo of Kefri said at the conference that the institute had developed technologies that enabled seed germination within three weeks while achieving very high survival rates.
An accelerated seedling multiplication rate is being achieved using tissue culturing.
According to the Institute for Security Studies, sandalwood is the most popular illegally harvested tree in Kenya today. One kilogramme of its oil, normally used for cosmetics, is sold for up to $1,500 (Sh115,500) but local farmers can only attract about a $1 (Sh77).
The conference, which was opened yesterday, presents a mix of academic papers and practical exhibitions from institutions of higher learning and individual innovators.

Scientists at the National Scientific Conference at Kenyatta International Conference Centre. Photo/ HEZRON NJOROG

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