“My wife’s death made us realise what are we overlooking and how important it is to live in a clean surrounding,” said 35-year-old Jeetendra Lodha from Borivli, who has launched a campaign against dengue after losing his wife to the disease a month ago.
Lodha, along with the local residents’ associations and social workers in Yogi Nagar, has been spreading awareness through seminars, arranging rallies and meeting workers from the municipal health department to identify mosquito breeding sites in the area.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito, the carrier of the dengue virus, breeds in pools of clear water and water containers, which are left uncovered for several days, indoors or outdoors, can become breeding sites for the mosquito.
Lodha’s wife, Rekha, who was admitted at Kolilaben Dhirubhai Hospital, Andheri, died after seven days on September 12. Lodha said only a week before she was diagnosed, they had informed the authorities about possible breeding grounds in the vicinity. While minor fumigation activities were carried out, no inspection was undertaken by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) ward officers.
“After my wife’s death, the BMC guys came and located two breeding grounds in our vicinity. We accept that there was a mistake on the part of the residents, but at the same time, had the area been inspected properly, it can save lives,” said Lodha.
He added that through his Terapanth Samaj, a community association, they are spreading the word across societies and residents to ensure that the surroundings are kept clean and no possible mosquito breeding grounds are formed.
“Major issue faced by people is that the buck keeps getting passed between the BMC and the builders. Many buildings have water drainage systems alongside their boundaries, which are poorly maintained and have become breeding sites for mosquitoes. Citing legal technicalities, the BMC said it is the builders’ responsibility to clean it . Many haven’t seen their builders for decades. Who will clean it then?” said Lodha.
His group, in conversation with local politicians and members of parliament, is contemplating on spreading awareness on a larger scale so that no such cases are reported next year and proper medical facilities are available for those who need it.
“The super speciality hospitals are available Andheri onwards. People are travelling long distances in times of distress. The local MP has accepted our proposal and promised that he will take the plan ahead,” said Lodha.
BMC’s executive health officer, Dr Padmaja Keskar, said that people’s participation makes a lot of difference when it comes to wiping out the breeding site. “An abandoned bag or vehicle garners immediate attention, but nobody reports water-filled drums or rain water canals. During such a period where the environment is vector friendly, people’s initiatives will make a lot of difference. If we get good response from people, we can wipe out the vector-borne diseases from the city,” said Keskar.
Officials from BMC’s insecticide department confirmed that there is a shortage of manpower when it comes to fumigation and inspection drives. “It’s true that there aren’t enough employees to cover the entire city and inspect every possible breeding site. And that is precisely the reason why we are intensifying the efforts on areas from where more cases are being reported. At the same time, general inspections and fumigations are being carried out throughout the city,” said an official who did not wish to be named.