Long-lasting transition toward sustainable elimination of desert malaria under irrigation development

Andres Baeza, Menno J. Bouma, Ramesh C. Dhiman, Edward B. Baskerville, Pietro Ceccato, Rajpal Singh Yadav, Mercedes Pascual

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


In arid areas, people living in the proximity of irrigation infrastructure are potentially exposed to a higher risk of malaria due to changes in ecohydrological conditions that lead to increased vector abundance. However, irrigation provides a pathway to economic prosperity that over longer time scales is expected to counteract these negative effects. A better understanding of this transition between increased malaria risk and regional elimination, in particular whether it is slow or abrupt, is relevant to sustainable development and disease management. By relying on space as a surrogate for stages of time, we investigate this transition in a semidesert region of India where a megairrigation project is underway and expected to cover more than 1,900 million hectares and benefit around 1 million farmers. Based on spatio-temporal epidemiological cases of Plasmodium vivax malaria and land-use irrigation from remote sensing sources, we show that this transition is characterized by an enhanced risk in areas adjacent to the trunk of the irrigation network, despite a forceful and costly insecticide-based control. Moreover, this transition between climate-driven epidemics and sustained low risk has already lasted a decade. Given the magnitude of these projects, these results suggest that increased health costs have to be planned for over a long time horizon. They further highlight the need to integrate assessments of both health and environmental impacts to guide adaptive mitigation strategies. Our results should help to define and track these transitions in other arid parts of the world subjected to similar tradeoffs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15157-15162
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number37
StatePublished - Sep 10 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Agricultural development
  • Environmental health
  • Epidemic malaria
  • Irrigation gradient
  • Vector-borne diseases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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