Fighting mosquito-borne illnesses will be commanding the attention of the Ministry of Environment and National Beautification as it seeks to plant more trees and help the island repel these insects.
This was suggested today as Minister Adrian Forde, addressed National Arbor Day celebrations at the National Botanical Gardens, Codrington, St. Michael.
Noting that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, mosquito-borne illnesses had been a perennial problem, he said mosquitoes had taken about two million lives around the world.
However, the Environment Minister assured Barbadians that steps would be taken to address the issue. “One of the things we are going to start doing to get natural ways to preserve our environment is to start to get those trees that would help to take care of the threats of the mosquitoes.
“We may be spraying with the fumigants from the Ministry of Health, but it is scientifically known; it is researched that those fumigants and those sprays only kill the adult mosquitoes.” Noting that the eggs remained, he said these can hatch 10 years later.
Minister Forde stressed that there was a role for the lizard population, especially the Barbados Leaf-Toed Gecko (phyllodactylus pulcher),said to be endemic to Barbados, in eradicating the mosquitoes, but they needed the trees as habitat to live and survive.
He said: “But their ability to eat the mosquito eggs from the leaves of the trees can never be estimated in the fight against the mosquito-borne illnesses. It is as serious as any other conversation we will be having with this country and that is why we started, in around early 2000, to preserve and rehabilitate those lizards at Paragon.”
Noting there were about 6,000 of these on the island, Mr. Forde said the lizards, along with conserving our biodiversity, help to regurgitate the soil and preserve our ecosystems, and could also form a new tourism drive.
And, he added that they, along with the toad also have an important function in removing mosquito larvae from water settlements.
“What I am saying is there needs to be a drive, an unequivocal drive, to preserve our biodiversity, whether it is the flora, which are the tree, or the fauna; it is important,” he stressed.
The Minister also noted that trees, such as the pyrethrum as well citronella grass, in the form of lawns, could be planted around homes across Barbados to help eradicate the mosquito problem.
Of the latter, Mr. Forde said: “Just like how we have this nice Zoysia and savannah grass on our lawns, [we need] citronella grass. We are starting to look around to get those seeds in Barbados, so we can have citronella lawns.
“Imagine we having a citronella lawn where the citronella being produced from the grass serves as a natural mosquito repellant. So, you don’t have to spray the insecticides around your homes that are causing all the destruction to the ozone layer. You’re having a natural way to deal with these problems.”