Investigating Differences in Everyday Governance of Water Access and Mosquito Control in Sarjapur, India

The health of urban populations is threatened by mosquito-borne disease, but this risk can be unevenly distributed across cities. To reduce disease risk, residents of urban areas rely on economic and social processes to control the environment, which is known as everyday governance. 

CEID’s Michelle Evans, John Drake, and Courtney Murdock worked with a research team to examine how households use everyday governance of urban infrastructure that is relevant to mosquito-borne disease (such as water infrastructure and mosquito control measures). The team examined if differences in mosquito control are impacted by inequalities in everyday governance and how these differences impact populations.

The study was conducted in Sarjapur, Bengaluru in India, a city with a population of 12.2 million. In the past two decades, this area has experienced an increase in cases of dengue fever, which is a tropical disease caused by the dengue virus, which is spread by mosquitoes. The impact of dengue fever and access to water varies greatly across the city. 

Study participants were sampled from sites with a variety of mosquito habitats, water infrastructure, and household identities. Key informant interviews, semi-structured interviews, and observations were conducted from August to December in 2019 to explore differences in mosquito burdens and water access across Sarjapur.

In Sarjapur, water is either provided by the local government panchayat (public) or a private provider. Private water is acquired by hiring private water tankers or by a development manager or residential association of a colony development for a fee. A colony development is a housing development where the houses were all built at the same time and are fairly identical. Panchayat water is available for free to smaller apartment buildings or individual houses, but this supply of public water is infrequent and sometimes only available once a week, while the private water was provided more regularly. For households relying on public water, their everyday governance practices involved both economic and social capital (such as reaching out to local government officials).  

Drainage, garbage, and unmanaged vegetation were also identified as the main drivers of mosquito presence. Community members believed the public areas identified as mosquito habitats are the responsibility of the government, as well as the community. For mosquito control, discussions with and formal complaints to local panchayats did not appear to be very effective. Many households that were able to leverage access to water were unable to access mosquito control services. This may be due to the perspective of the panchayat that mosquito control efforts are an individual, rather than municipal, responsibility. Although a majority of participants reported being satisfied with their water access, over half of the households reported concerns about mosquito control. Pest control measures implemented in individual households were found to be ineffective, as these households had high abundances of mosquitoes. 

Overall, this study highlights differences between the everyday governance of mosquito control and the everyday governance of water access. Members of the Sarjapur community were able to successfully access water through public and private mechanisms, but these mechanisms were not applicable to mosquito control. Both social and economic capital could be utilized by participants to access water, but mosquito control practices could only be accessed via economic capital (though these control practices are largely unsuccessful). The team posits that a shift in the perspective of responsibility for vector-control from individuals to the government could allow for large-scale community wide mosquito control programs.

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By: Brenna Daly