It sounds shockingly strange that in dry and arid Rajasthan, Malaria is spreading as an epidemic. The political ecology of changes in the Western regions brought by the Indira Gandhi Canal has been catastrophic. Associations of Physicians in India have tried
draw a correlation between incidence of Malaria and the annual rainfall in Rajasthan. While the mean annual incidence of Malaria was reported to be 277+ / - 90 cases per 100,000 population, the mean annual rainfall was 541 + / -144 mm. The mean cultivated area being 15.5+ / -1.2 million hectare, it was noted that while prolonged rainfall had an effect on the incidence of Malaria, increased area under cultivation, especially under Indira Gandhi Canal, had a definite bearing on Malaria. While the Canal brought definite changes in terms of increased agricultural production in Ganganagar, Jaisalmer and Barmer districts, it has also caused major ecological changes, which contribute to Malaria resurgence. The irrigation has increased cultivation of water intensive crops as area under paddy has increased from 31mh in 1950 to 42mh. Seepage from the canal has similarly converted around 10,000 hectare of desert into the marshland, making it a ripe breeding ground for the vector.
The planned motive of making the desert bloom is commendable only when agricultural practices are tuned to sustainable agro-climatic zonation. Rajasthan needs eco-friendly mode of irrigation and that most certainly does not include the Canal mode.