After Dharavi, rising Covid cases in slums of Govandi, Deonar a worry
While G-North ward is in the spotlight with the rising number of coronavirus cases in Dharavi, experts are also concerned about the cases in M-East ward, which they say is at a greater risk, as it has the worst health indices in the city.
The ward, which includes slum pockets of Deonar, Govandi, Bainganwadi, Shivaji Nagar and Cheetah Camp and the Deonar dumping ground, is spread across an area of 32.50sqkm. The population density here is 36,923 per sqkm, more than the average density of (32,303 per sqkm) of Mumbai, which is the fifth most-densely populated city in the world, according to a United Nations Population Prospects study released in July 2019. The M-East ward on Thursday crossed the 100 mark with 8 new cases, according to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) data. Between April 6 and April 15, the number of cases in M-East went up to 103 from 16, with 25 containment zones.
One of the major worrying factors is that M-East is a hotspot for tuberculosis (TB) owing to the poor living conditions. A study conducted by Doctors For You (DFY) for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) found that 8-10% households in the Lallubhai compound and Natwar Parekh compound in Govandi had at least one TB patient. The study found that these slum rehabilitation colonies, with no ventilation, were breeding grounds for the disease.
According to the Mumbai Human Development report 2009, United Nations Development Programme, the average life expectancy in the ward is 39. The same report ranks M-East the lowest among the 24 wards in terms of human development index. Another situational analysis by Apnalaya, an NGO working in Shivaji Nagar in M-East, in 2017 found that 44% children are underweight, 57% are stunted and 88% pregnant women are anaemic. Most of the people living in the ward are daily wage workers, who have been hit by the lockdown.
Social distancing – one of the key preventive measures recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – is almost impossible to sustain in the densely populated ward. Dr Peehu Pardeshi, who was a part of the DFY study, said, “Covid-19 can be a major risk factor in the ward as their lung capacity has already been compromised and their immunity is low owing to the conditions they live in. The lack of ventilation, cramped spaces and lack of sanitation pose a huge threat.” Arun Kumar, CEO, Apnalaya, said the situation is more alarming than any other part of the city. “M-East has the highest disenfranchised, unenumerated people in Mumbai. The government records show its population as little over eight lakh, when it has a population of 12 lakh. The testing abysmally low.” Sudhanshu Dwivedi, assistant commissioner of M-east ward, BMC, said, “We have been taking all steps to address the situation. All 25 containment zones are being sanitised daily.”