The dengue outbreak in Delhi has taken over the security concerns of countries participating in the Commonwealth Games. Twenty-four participating countries have already bombarded the Organising Committee (OC) with queries about the dengue-preparedness in the city. A host of countries, including Malaysia and Australia, have also issued travel advisories for their nationals coming to Delhi for the Games.
The civic agencies responsible for keeping a check on mosquito breeding have found that Games sites are the hotbeds for mosquito breeding.
Most of the Games sites such as Yamuna Sports Complex, CWG village, Indira Gandhi Stadium and RK Khanna Sports Complex, have been fined a number of times by the civic agencies for mosquito breeding. “The Games Village is particularly in a bad shape. Our preventive measures there have proved futile because of its location and present condition.
The entry points to the Village and the roads outside it are completely waterlogged resulting in massive mosquito breeding,” said V.K. Monga, chairman of MCD’s Public Health Committee. “The water has to be drained out from the surrounding area otherwise the situation will get out of control,” added Monga.
Seven thousand athletes will be staying at this village. Emaar MGF that has constructed the Games Village has said it is not responsible for taking any measures outside the Village boundary. “We have handed over the Village to the OC and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).
We have no role to play in it," said a spokesperson of Emaar MGF. The DDA, on its part, has said it is fogging the area using hand-operated machines. "Twice a day the Village is being fogged by the staff to prevent breeding of mosquitoes. Due to the rains, water has accumulated there but we will get it cleaned," said Neemo Dhar, spokesperson of DDA.
While the entire area surrounding the Village is waterlogged, the Organising Committee is busy claiming that everything will be "perfect" by the time the Games begin. "All the agencies are taking every step to ensure the area is free of mosquitoes.
We have been assured by them that there will not be any problem. There is no need to worry as everything will be fine when the Games are held," said Lalit Bhanot, spokesman of OC. The government has finally pressed the panic button and is now taking all kinds of measures. It has released gambusia fish in the water body to curb mosquito breeding. The civic agencies have also started painting the walls of all the venues with a special chemical that acts as a mosquito repellent.
They have also launched a sanitation drive to clean the city. But the efforts have come in late Experts claim that the current crisis was inevitable given that the government did not do much when the problem was still in its infancy. “The government knew way back in 2006 when the city had witnessed the last dengue outbreak that the situation could be grave in 2010.
But still no concrete plan was chalked out and implemented,” said Dr Bir Singh, Professor of Community Medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). The location of the Village is also being criticised by the experts as it is on the riverbed and has been fined by MCD a number of times for mosquito breeding. “The Games village is on the riverbed of Yamuna which is a natural habitat for breeding of mosquitoes.
It seems the organisers didn't give much thought to this while selecting the site. Had they done that, the situation would have been much different today,” he added. The gravity of the crisis can be gauged from the fact that the hospitals in the vicinity of the Village, such as Max and Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital, have been reporting more than 30 confirmed cases of dengue everyday.
But it seems the worst is yet to come as dengue peaks in September and October. “We are already getting about 50 suspected cases a day, which is twice the number we were getting last month. Of these, at least 15 people require hospitalisation daily,” said Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, director, institute of internal medicine, Max Hospital.
Water-borne diseases ravage Capital
The heavy rains and overflowing drains this year have led to a surge in water-borne diseases such as gastroenteritis, cholera, typhoid and jaundice.
“We virtually wade through knee-deep water, which is full of sewage. As a result, many people have fallen sick in our neighbourhood over the past fortnight but the civic agencies don’t seem to care,” said Raksha Malhotra, a resident of Tilak Nagar in West Delhi.
Contaminated tap water has only added to the woes of the people. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) recently expressed concern over the quality of water supplied by the Delhi Jal Board. The MCD found 1,768 collected samples unfit for drinking. Even food has not been spared the contamination.
The doctors have warned that food cooked in the open at kiosks is usually contaminated. “Eat and drink food and water brought from home as risk contracting water-borne diseases is high. Contamination of any kind, be it food or water, can cause gastroenteritis. We are expecting a rise in the number of such cases,” said Dr Amit Banerjee, medical superintendent, Lok Nayak Hospital.
Painting the dengue crisis away
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi is going all out to assure participating nations that it has dengue outbreak under control.
For the first time, the MCD has decided to use a special colourless paint — synthetic Pyrethroid — to clear the Games training and event venues of mosquitoes and other insects.
Pyrethorid has insect repellent properties and is not dangerous for humans. The paint, which will be sprayed on the walls, will keep people safe from mosquitoes for 12 weeks. A team of 100 MCD staffers are currently undergoing training to use the paint by specialists from the National Centre for Communicable Disease (NCDC).
The painting work started on Thursday at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies of Games will be held. The walls of buildings at Commonwealth Games Village, near Akshardham Temple, are also being sprayed with this paint. The village will be used as residential and training venue by the delegates and athletes during the 14 day sports extravaganza.
The MCD officials decided to use the paint after 24 countries issued travel advisories, questioning the current status of the dengue outbreak.
Civic agencies ‘damage-control’ sanitation drives of little use
The civic agencies seem to have finally woken up from their slumber. With the dengue outbreak showing no signs of ebbing, the agencies have launched a sanitation drive to keep the city clean.
However, the effort seems too little, too late. Resident Welfare Associations say the drive should have been started by June. “The drives are just the civic agencies’ ways of controlling the damage now when the situation has gone out of control.
Given the intermittent rains and construction activities in the Capital, the drive will have little benefit,” said V. K. Arora, a resident of East Delhi.
Both the New Delhi Municipal Council and Municipal Corporation of Delhi have launched a sanitation drive, especially around the Games sites. “The sanitation-cum-cleanliness drive is being launched to effectively control the breeding of Aedes Aegypti mosquito so that the dengue spread can be checked. The intermittent rains are conducive of mosquito breeding,” said K.S. Mehra, MCD commissioner. The civic agencies said under the sanitation drive, they would also penalise people who create conditions conducive for mosquito breeding.
Haven for diseases, hell for workers
Shivaji Stadium, Games village
When it rains, it pours. And the Commonwealth Games sites are finding this out the hard way.
Already facing construction delays as a result of incessant rains, the waterlogged Games sites have now been fined by the civic agencies for becoming breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
And it's not just the sites, the living quarters of the construction workers there are also waterlogged, forcing them to live in extremely unhygienic conditions. But nothing much has been done about it.
At various places such as Polo Grounds in North Campus, around the Commonwealth Games Village and Shivaji Stadium, workers are still living and working in unhygienic conditions.
“Everyone here is ill. Fever, cough, cold and diarrhoea are the most common diseases. Mosquitoes are everywhere. My children are down with fever. Many people are down with malaria,” said Manju Bai, 23, who lives outside the Polo Ground near North Campus in a tarpaulin tent. Most of the workers here have just tarpaulin tents for homes. Though a fumigation drive was started at some of the venues, it has not made any difference to those living on the streets.