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Sunday, Oct 20, 2019

Bugged Delhi battles mosquito breeding as monsoon at door

Civic bodies launch apps, give tablets to breeding checkers, but are yet to fix shortage of staff and raise fine.

delhi Updated: Jun 29, 2017 17:39 IST
Abhinav Rajput
Abhinav Rajput
Hindustan Times
Workers from SDMC’s malaria department use a tablet to note down information at Kishangarh village near Vasant Kunj in New Delhi on Friday.
Workers from SDMC’s malaria department use a tablet to note down information at Kishangarh village near Vasant Kunj in New Delhi on Friday. (Vipin Kumar/HT File Photo)

Mobile applications, tablets to mosquito breeding checkers, a facility to click photos of mosquito-infested areas and post it on the website of corporations for action. The north, east and south corporations had taken up a host of technology innovations and other measures to stop breeding of mosquitoes.

Despite all this, there had been an unprecedented rise in the number of mosquito borne diseases till June 17. Till June 24, 107 chikungunya, 70 malaria and 54 dengue cases had been reported.

Interestingly, no chikungunya case was reported during the same period in the past three years, according to the data collated by South Delhi Municipal Corporation, the nodal agency for the three civic bodies.

Health experts say mosquito-borne diseases generally spread after monsoon. The fresh trend, however, suggests that mosquitoes -- the primary carriers -- have developed higher tolerance to insecticides and larvicides.

Medical Health Officer of SDMC P K Hazarika, however, said the rise in the number of cases was also due to better reporting by the civic bodies.

Are workers effective ?

Domestic breeding checkers (DBCs), whose job is to check mosquito breeding in households, say residents in over 50% of the houses they visit do not allow them to enter. Sunil, a checker in Mehrauli, said, “The people abuse us and say we want to threaten them to get money from them.”

The corporations issued identity cards and uniforms to field workers but that hasn’t helped either. Most gated colonies restrict entry for visitors, said a supervisor of DBC workers.

In Singapore, inspection teams have the power to break into a house, if locked or inaccessible, during peak season to check breeding. In western countries, if an outbreak happens, the corporation works on a war footing by zeroing-in on the worst-affected areas,” said former municipal commissioner Rakesh Mehta.

Corporations understaffed

Around 40-50 % posts designated for staff to keep a check on mosquito-breeding sites are vacant for more than two years. Of 755 sanctioned posts of anti-malaria officers, senior malaria inspectors and assistant malaria inspectors in the north and east civic bodies, 531 are vacant. Officials say the poor strength hampers their work .

Delay in payment of salaries to approximately 45,000 employees of the east and north corporations often leads to frequent strikes and stalls sanitation work.

Court intervention

The National Green Tribunal had told the authorities to introduce gambushia fish in fountains to prevent breeding. The transport corporation was also directed to ensure that rainwater does not accumulate in stationary buses.

As one walks on the five-kilometre road opposite Okhla Bird Santuary , the epicentre of dengue cases last year, one can spot buses and trucks lying abandoned with water accumulated in them.

Nageshwar, treasurer at PVR Anupam in Saket, where two fountains are lying abandoned for years and water had accumulated, said, “We have been asking the south corporation to allow us to cement the pit. Neither do they clean it nor allow us to take action.”

Does technology help?

The SDMC launched an application for better monitoring of the disease. The application has a feature to mark every household visited by breeding checkers. The workers, however, say it has slowed down their work .

“We are given the task of checking 50 houses every day but most of the time goes into feeding data. I cannot complete more than 35 houses. We do not mind using a tablet, but there are greater concerns that needs to be addressed first. The corporation should have given hand-held devices through which we could issue challans to people who do not allow us to check their homes,” said Sunil.

A challan for a maximum fine of Rs 500 is issued to defaulters, which is forwarded to the local magistrate. The fine has remained the same since the Delhi Municipal Act was formed in 1970. MCD officials say they have been trying to get it increased to Rs 2,000.

First Published: Jun 29, 2017 17:16 IST

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