Man has been developing and decorating the world with knowledge, idea, and technology as per his cultural construction to fulfill the need of the population since antiquity. Infrastructural development, the development of different types of roads, the construction of bridges, making tunnels, digging canals, urbanisation, and deforestation have been changing our ecosystem and influencing the environment in diverse ways. To cope with the rapidly changing physical, environmental, and ideological world, people are also embracing changes–albeit very slowly and insignificantly.
About 2000 years ago, the introduction of agriculture into Sub-Saharan Africa greatly changed the ecology of tropical forests. Use of iron tools, cleaning the vegetation, deforestation, shift in settlement pattern and open sunny pools, slow-running water and easy availability of human blood helped breeding Anopheles gambiae, the main vector mosquito for falciparum malaria. The changed ecology created serious health hazards among the dwellers of the new subsistence pattern with a death rate of about 25% among non-immune (McElroy and Townsend 1989).
YOU CAN ALSO READ: WHY HALF OF HEALTH SECTOR’S BUDGETARY ALLOCATION REMAINS UNUTILISED?
During the process of adaptation, a point mutation occurred in one of the DNA base pairs, which are codes for the hemoglobin protein chain. Instead of glutamic acid at the 6th position of the beta chain of Hb, valine was produced and Red Blood Corpuscle became sickle-shaped, which gave some degree of immunity to falciparum malaria. The ecological perspective of diseases is a valid and well-known phenomenon.
Later on, the use of DDT and Malathion to control malaria and its catastrophic effect on the environment created a new public health problem. In 1939, Swiss scientist Paul Muller invented DDT (Dichloro Diethyl Trichloroethane) and showed its insecticidal effect for which he got a Nobel Prize. But in 1962, Rachel Carson wrote “Silent Spring” and elaborated on the ecological imbalance and bad effects of DDT on health and the environment.
We want to analyse the impact of development, modernisation on health, and diseases in the perspective of past world history–especially in the developing nation after liberation from colonial dependence.
At present, catastrophic climate change in addition to Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war critically challenges the development trajectory of the present time.
Nowadays, in underdeveloped as well as developing territories, there is an increased rate of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and mental stress, which is sometimes due to urbanisation.
Trypanosomiasis popularly known as ‘Sleeping sickness’ in west Africa a vector-borne disease transmitted by the Tsetse fly mostly found in swampy river valleys and lowland thickets mostly in Liberia, Ghana, and Nigeria. In many areas of Western and Central Africa this parasitic disease was eradicated by the 1940s.
The disease became a problem again two decades later, as migrant laborers and travelers moved from one region to another via newly constructed highways and railways. Human and Tsetse flies came into contact, Travelers were bitten by flies when they stopped at the river crossing for resting and drinking water. The flies were attracted by moving vehicles and were carried inside trucks for miles. Farmers displaced by dam construction projects were exposed to an increased risk of Trypanosomiasis when they moved from highland areas to river valleys (Hughes and Hunter, 1970). Sleeping sickness is sometimes called a “disease of development”.
The development of roads and buildings have positive effects on health services, health-seeking behaviors which are the determinants of health and happiness. Infrastructural development is directly related to socioeconomic growth in countless ways. But in the long run, the dynamics of disease transmission may change after developmental work like deforestation, road construction, digging canals and tunnels, and construction of buildings.
Schistosomiasis, commonly known as bilharziasis, is a parasitic disease that spread through the urine and stool of the infected person. The egg of the disease developing in the fresh water and through the intermediate host snail and the infective form cercariae came to water. These cercariae can penetrate the skin and mucous membrane of human beings and goes through the circulatory system to the lung, liver and the portal circulation causes blood in urine and stool by rupturing the venous plexus around the bladder and rectum respectively.
The spread of Schistosomiasis in Egypt and Sudan was due to the construction in the 1960s of the As- wan Dam and Lake Nasser, which were designed to provide hydroelectric power and irrigation to the country. After perennial irrigation was introduced, the rate of the disease rose as high as 58% in some farming villages.
Kyasanur Forest disease is an arboviral disease. Kyasanur Forest epidemic in South India and de- forestation with clearing jungle, Asbestosis of the workers of Asbestos factory, Minamata diseases (Methyl Mercury poison) of the fisherman due to industrial water at Minamata Bay of Japan, Legion name diseases (gram-negative bacillus) from Air condition machine in Philadelphia of American in 1976, increased rates of Road Traffic Accidents following the construction of roads, polluted air and lung diseases, sound pollutions at Urban and decreased ability to hear among urban people are mostly due to urbanisation and infrastructural development. All these ‘developogenic diseases’ are multifactorial and have connection with the ecology and economy. Development ignoring ecology might have rebound pain of retarded economic growth due to the health and happiness of the people.
At present, the Padma Bridge, the Tunnel below Karnofuli river, the Metrorail, rapid transport, the movement of thousands of people, and related experts of the project will change our lifestyle will change in the etiology of diseases and economic growth rate in Bangladesh. Mobile addiction, addiction in virtual games, and Facebook may influence mental development at the same time.
Infrastructural development pushes the countries’ development in unlimited ways where the sky is the limit. Development of roads, bridges, railways, digging canals for agriculture and hydroelectric project, generation of electricity by coal or atomic energy, making tunnels, and infrastructural development for urbanization have definite effect on economic expansion. With these changes, new opportunities will arise for health and happiness but the infrastructural development may change the ecological niche which might have an effect on the physical, mental, and social health of the population.
It is a fact that at present Bangladesh is a role model of development. To make ourselves fit for the 4th industrial revolution (4IR) and cope with the changing world properly, we should know the complex exponential growth of different issues. The complex ecological perspectives, economic response, and the movement of people from one place to another due to development of the roads and highways, have direct and indirect effects on the dynamics of disease transmission and causation.
All these issues must be taken into consideration during project planning and to be incorporated into the hidden cost of the project. Medical entomologists, Public Health specialists, Botanists, Sociologists and so forth may play a definitive role in the planning phase of developmental projects. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already called for undertaking development projects without hurting the nature.