They began with fogging across the city. Then they sprayed larvicide on breeding grounds. After that came the plan to breed engineered sterile male mosquitoes. On Tuesday, the Chennai Corporation invited expressions of interest from companies to distribute mosquito nets to residents.

And on Thursday, the civic body considered yet another initiative in its long, frustrating and challenging battle against the tiny winged carriers of disease.

This time, the plan is to go green with the distribution of herbs that repel mosquitoes.

Ever year the Corporation spends more than Rs. 5 crore on mosquito control. And yet, despite efforts ranging from the ordinary to the somewhat bizarre, the menace only seems to have increased.

Officials from various departments including the agriculture department have now held discussions with civic body officials to identify species of herbs that keep mosquitoes away. Once these are identified, they will be procured by the Corporation, and all the residential properties of the 10.71 lakh buildings in the city will get these plants free of cost.

Not only are they expected to be effective in repelling mosquitoes, they will also serve as home decorations. Also, some of the species’ flowers or leaves could be used by residents to extract alkaloids and tackle the mosquito menace in their neighbourhoods, an official said.

This step, officials said, will only be one of the many measures the Corporation will take. Distribution of mosquito nets and fogging operations will continue.

The herbal plants are also expected to reduce the impact of environmental damage being caused by fogging. “The use of insecticides or larvicides have an impact on the health of residents and also affect the environment,” said B.M. Rex, entomologist, Spartan Enterprises, a pest control company.

People with wheezing problems and asthma could suffer during intense fogging operations if the insecticide exceeds the permissible limit, he added. The use of chemical larvicide too could be hazardous for fish as well as the environment if used in waterways.

With these challenges to overcome, the civic body believes it is time to go herbal. The city’s residents though, will have to wait and see.

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