Does it help you to know that there are 11,000 sites breeding mosquitoes in your neighbourhood, if you can't do much about it?

A brief report in The Hindu today said the Chennai Corporation had identified 11,107 sites in the Adyar area, where mosquitoes are said to be breeding. Some 394 sites have a high density of mosquito larvae, we are informed, and a few thousand houses have received 'advice' on how to control the menace.

This is of course no news to a city which has lost the battle with the mosquito (of course, it has never really been won anywhere) of all genera - those that bite during the day, at night and transmit malaria, filaria and dengue.

The statistic of the Chennai Corporation about the number of sites breeding mosquitoes is actually useless, because it has, in all probability, ignored those sites that its own personnel are opening everyday that are useful to the little winged monsters.

Look at any road, and the Corporation, joined by the Metrowater, telephone companies or other civic or service agency, has been busy digging it up. When the job is complete, though, the working group leaves the place full of trenches and pits, often away from the main road surface and hence used by neither people nor their cars. These are of course convenient for the disease vectors to spawn a few generations soon after it rains.

Yet, it is always helpful to find some "external" villains that can be blamed for the problem. So last month, the Corporation said Chennai Metro Rail is a recalcitrant agency that does not allow mosquito control on its sites! Incidentally, these sites include massive excavations where work is on to build stations, and certainly these are well above the levels of sophistication that our Corporation of Chennai's personnel are used to. If the law requires that they should not contribute to the health of mosquitoes, why not simply press that law with CMRL, and make them do what is necessary?

The Chennai Corporation also has no plan to prevent waste handling shops from stocking piles of rubbish right outside residential complexes, on busy interior roads, where they provide perfect breeding places. Tyres, plastic buckets, and other assorted junk is piled on roads outside such shops, exposed to the rain. It is doubtful whether the shops are issued licences to carry on their business.

On the question of triumph over mosquitoes, the only hope seems to be the recent discovery that there are specific chemicals in the skin of humans, that mosquitoes are not interested in, and may therefore protect them - by making them seem "invisible" to the winged tyrants.

According to the scientists, led by Ulrich Bernier of the United States Department of Agriculture who revealed the finding, one of these is 1-methylpiperazine, the BBC reported.

Anyone fighting mosquitoes would agree that the insects no longer respond adequately to conventional repellants, leading to a 'stronger the better' approach among those who want a good night's sleep. It would certainly be a boon to have a 'natural' alternative, and hopefully, such a product would be spared the distortions of patent regimes.

Meanwhile, we can overturn all those containers, cups, buckets and coconut shells and move old tyres to enclosed places to make things difficult for mosquitoes. We can't expect robust help from the Corporation other than identification of "breeding sites" that are out in the open.