As a responsible citizen, Deesha Vijay Asher, last month wrote two letters to the civic authorities complaining about an overflowing sewage gutter in the compound of her building, Dalal House, in Gamdevi.
Asher, 18, had warned the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) that if the drain was not cleaned it could lead to the spread of malaria. She got no response from the BMC. Worse, she contracted malaria and has had to miss her ongoing college exams.
The first year Jai Hind College student is currently bed ridden. “Our house help, Yogesh, is also down with malaria,” said Asher, who wrote her first letter to the BMC’s health department in D-ward (Girgaum to Haji Ali) on November 9 and followed it up with another on November 17.
“The gutters in the compound are overflowing. Dirty sewage water is stagnating in the compound. Millions of mosquitoes are breeding in the area. This could lead to a malaria epidemic,” Asher’s letters stated. In December, so far nine malaria deaths have been reported in the city. In November 43 people died of malaria.
Eventually on Tuesday, the Ashers decided to pay some “chai paani” following which two BMC employees cleaned up a part of the gutter. “They gave us hundreds of reasons to pay them to get the drain cleaned. Isn’t this the BMC’s job anyways?” asked Gunjan, Deesha’s mother.
Dr Gaurav Gupta, who works with a private hospital in Gamdevi and is treating Deesha, said that he has seen a steady increase in the number of malaria cases among locals in the past two weeks. He said areas like Tardeo and Gamdevi, two up-market areas of south Mumbai, are the worst hit. “I don’t think changing seasons has much to do with this. It is simply the civic body’s inefficiency to keep the area clean,” said Gupta.
Civic officers, however, claimed that they have been running an aggressive drive against malaria but their focus so far has been on sanitising slum areas. “Our audit revealed that 90 per cent of the malaria deaths were reported from slums due to the unhygienic living conditions,” said Manisha Mhaiskar, additional municipal commissioner (health).
As per the data collected by the BMC, between November 9 and December 8, it has already screened 34 lakh houses in the city to check against collection of stagnant water, which allows the mosquito larvae to breed.