Mosquito control in France: a socio-technical controversy between environnemental preoccupations and health protection
Dpt of Human Sciences/UMR Espace-DESMID University of the Mediterranean Marseille, France
Rich in wetland, metropolitan France was also rich in mosquitoes, and the diseases they carry. Thus, Malaria was significantly present until the beginning of the XX° century. It completely disappeared only after the Second World War. However, the public policies of mosquito control started exactly when the insect ceased to be a health problem. These public policies were raised firstly in the South of France. They were explicitly thought as a condition sine quanone to the development of mass tourism, the new economic orientation of the region. One area was an exception to this mosquito control, the Camargue, as a world famous natural park. During the 1990´s the exceptional status of the Camargue raised significant controversy. More and more inhabitants and professionals of tourism demand the end of this local exception, seen as unfair in terms of quality of live and economic development. But the nature protection actors resisted: Camargue is a fragile and therefore untouchable wetland sanctuary. The force of the environmental argument was however affected by the re-emergence of health crises, here and elsewhere. The West Nile crisis, during the late 1990, killed animals and touched people in the Camargue, and, because of a mutation of the virus, even killed people in the USA. More recently, the Chikungunia crisis killed 257 persons in the French oceanic island "La Réunion" and affected 300 000 others, before arriving in Italia. If the chikungunia is not yet in metropolitan France, the mosquito which carries it (Aedes albopictus) is in the South-West, leading to the activation of a health alert procedure, involving all the doctors of the area, the health ministry and the professionals of mosquito control. Since then, the whole French Mediterranean region is concerned by a new dilemma: How to choose between health protection and environmental preoccupations? This paper will present the results of the sociological analyses of this new dilemma: its origin, its scientific and political dimensions, its appropriation by local inhabitants and its recent developments. This analysis is based on 12 years of sociological field surveys, involving qualitative and quantitative databases.