Until a few years ago it was "plagued" by lack of sanitation and "flooded" with regular outbreaks of malaria and other vector-borne diseases. Today Surat (Gujarat) is held up as a model of civic management. How did the sea change occur?
Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) consultant Dr Vikas Desai listed the actions responsible for the metamorphosis, offering, in the process, several pointers that the Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) would do well to follow.
Dr Desai said regular surveillance by trained workers for symptoms of dengue, chikanguniya and malaria had helped in early detection of vector-borne diseases. Her remarks came at an Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) meeting presided over by mayor Krishna Murari Moghe here on Friday.
"Dengue and chikanguniya are on the rise everywhere, this is a challenge for all of us," she asserted.
Pointing out that water-filled pits at construction sites were fertile breeding grounds for mosquito larvae she asked the authorities to ensure these were drained. "(SMC) levies fines ranging from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 25,000 for repeat offenders," she added.
She also stressed the need for strong convergence between health and water sectors (in Gujarat health is handled by civic bodies). "Health without sanitation is not possible in urban areas," she pointed out. And doing the small things in the right way could go a long way in ensuring public health, "If there is a pipeline leakage it has to be repaired promptly. It cannot be done four days later," she declared. In case of delays supply to the concerned area should be cut off and alternative arrangements made.
Dr Desai also urged the IMC to tap into local academic institutions to improve civic governance. Locally available technical expertise from medical and engineering colleges, architects and others can be roped in said Desai.
Addressing the meeting mayor Moghe said the co-ordination between IMC and the health department had reduced the number of malaria cases and "only 3-4 dengue cases" were reported.
Moghe said extensive nullah and back lane cleaning drives initiated by the IMC had helped curb vector-borne diseases. Joint director health services said the 535-odd identified slums that housed some 8.50 lakh people "posed a major challenge" for the roughly 1,400 registered medical facilities.
The city advisory committee meet aims at mapping out a holistic plan to fortify individuals and institutions against climate change. It was organised jointly by the Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) and Taru under the ACCCRN initiative.
Indore, along with Surat and Gorakhpur, is among the three cities chosen for a pilot project on climate change by the ACCCRN, funded by the US-based Rockefeller Foundation.