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(48) Page [21] - Part II. Malaria in Bombay
46. Bombay has passed through many periods of ill-health, from the time
when speaking of Europeans it was said that, "Two monsoons were the life of a
man" to the more recent outbreak of plague, but there are few references to
malaria to be found in the history of the Island and this fact supports the
assumption that the City has never suffered as severely from malaria as many
other parts of India.
Freyer writing of Bombay in 1673 remarks:-
"I reckon the people of Bombay walk in charnel houses, the climate
"being extremely unhealthy, as first thought to be caused by bubsho,
"rotten fish; but, though that be prohibited, yet it continues as mortal.
"I rather impute it to the situation which causes an infecundity in the
"earth, and a putridness in the air, which being produced seldom coming
"to maturity, whereby what is eaten is undigested; whence follow fluxes,
"dropsy, scurvy, barbiers, gout, stone, malignant and putrid fevers, which
"are endemial diseases."
And Aungier, the famous Governor of the Island, in a report written in
the same year as Freyer's memoir, stated that-
"After the first intermission of the rains in May or June and after
"their total ceasing in October the air and water are unwholesome by
"reason of the crude pestiferous vapours exhaled by the violent heat of the
"sun into the air and vermin created in the wells and tanks which renders
"those months mostly sickly to the inhabitants, and especially Europeans."
A few years later Ovington writes of Bombay as follows:-
"Fish manure is a mortal enemy to the lives of Europeans. We
"arrived here at the beginning of the rains and buried of the 24 passen-
"gers we brought with us above 20, before they were ended; and of all
"our own ships' company above 15. ....... The prodigious growth
"of vermin and of venomous creatures at the time of the monsoons do
"abundantly demonstrate the malignant corruption of the air."
47. In recent years it has been suggested that malaria was responsible for
the condition of things recorded by Freyer, Aungier and Ovington.
Campbell in his History of Bombay (Vol. I, p. 437), remarks:-
"Various causes were assigned for the alarming mortality amongst
"Europeans in Bombay. The atmosphere was at first supposed to be
"polluted by the putrid fish with which the trees were manured. A more
"reasonable conjecture was that malaria arose from the low plains
"which were overflowed at high tides and left in a swampy state when
"the sea receded."
And in the recently published Bombay Gazetteer, a comment upon
Aungier's report suggests that:-
"One of the chief reasons for the unhealthiness recorded by him, was
"doubtless the gradual silting-up of the creeks which divided Bombay into
"a group of islets. At high tide the sea swept through the breaches,
"overflowed the major portion of the island, and left a pestilential deposit
"highly productive of malaria; and the conviction of the truth of this
"suggestion led the Court of Directors between 1684 to 1710 to constantly
"emphasize the need of stopping up the breaches and reclaiming the
"drowned lands."
B 136-6

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