G Mostafa: Allegation of using substandard mosquito repellent by both the City Corporations in Dhaka has been intensified causing return of mosquito menace. As a result, both the government money and effort to eliminate the mosquitoes are being wasted.
According to a complainant filed by a councilor to the DSCC Mayor, the effectiveness of mosquito repellent has been questioned even after spending huge amount of money by the government against mosquito repellent activities. Due to use of substandard mosquito repellent, the nuisance of mosquitoes is not removing, but also increasing abnormally putting the city dwellers at health risk. Various type of mosquito borne diseases including Dengue and Chikungunya are being spread out among the people including children and elderly men.
Though, the top officials of both the city corporations are reluctant to accept the allegation saying that their medicine is good and effective to eliminate mosquitoes, there is no measure to verify the standard.
They claimed that, ‘Culex’ mosquitoes grow during the winter season. With the end of season, the nuisance of mosquitoes will come under control. They are working hard day and night to control the mosquitoes.
Meanwhile, the city dwellers have complained that the nuisance of mosquitoes has increased in the last few months due to inactiveness of the city corporations’ authorities. Mosquitoes have also increased in slums and even posh areas. The disturbance is started as soon as evening fell. It disrupts studies of the students. The risk of diseases like Dengue and Chikungunya is also increasing day by day due to lack of mosquito repellent.
On the other hand, the two mayors of Dhaka claimed that mosquito and dengue are under control this year as the mosquito infestation has been less in the last few months.
City experts said, December to March is the breeding period for Culex mosquitoes. It is possible to reduce the infestation by cleaning mosquito breeding grounds.
Abdul Quader, a resident of Banashree area of the capital said, “Mosquitoes start biting as soon as we enter into the house. There is no way to get rid from the mosquito biting even after hanging net or using spray or coils. I have never seen such a terrible mosquito earlier.
Salim Uddin, a rickshaw puller of Moghbazar area said, “Earlier I used to sleep in a rickshaw garage. But now, it is difficult to stand outside for 30 seconds. But the mayors always claim that the mosquitoes are now under control and they are working hard regularly to eradicate mosquitoes. But, reality is different.”
Haji Mohammad Ibrahim, Councillor of Ward no-67 in Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) complained that the effectiveness of mosquito repellent is not available.
Quoting locals, he said, the mosquito repellent used earlier was effective so that people could spend the night without mosquito nets or coils. But now, people are not getting effectiveness of the medicine due to poor quality.
“I get a lot of phone calls from councilors every day. They complained that they are not getting rid from the mosquito nuisance even after spraying of medicine. Mosquitoes do not die. They demand a good test of the medicine,” said a DSCC health official seeking anonymity.
Complying with the councilor’s demand, South City Corporation CEO ABM Amin Ullah Nuri said, “We are using the same drugs as before. Imported drugs are being used. New drugs have not yet arrived.”
He claimed, there is no wind now. This is why, Culex mosquito grows rapidly. When Bengali month Falgun comes, it will decrease again. Mosquitoes are under our control. Even then we are taking special crash programs.”
“We do not test mosquito repellent. This work is done by IEDCR, Jahangirnagar University and Plant Protection of the government. We use the drugs that they certify,” he added.
Selim Reza, Chief Executive Officer of the DNCC said, “It was true that mosquitoes have increased. However, our work in mosquito control continues.”
On January 1 this year, the DSCC invited tender for 6.40 lakh liters of drugs. The estimated cost is Tk 12,41, 60,000. But, the DSCC was forced to retender repeatedly as each company offered ‘extra’ rates. The company may finalize the formulation of the mosquito repellent with a four-stage tender. For a long time, the company could not supply the medicine. Mosquito workers spent lazy time then.
ACI Formulation Limited is in charge of drug formulation in DSCC. About one lakh liters of drugs supplied by the company were returned in mid-October last year as they did not pass the field test.
At present, the organization is using the formulated drugs of that company. However, the DSCC could not say what the returned drugs were.
The health department of the DSCC claimed that the drugs which did not pass the field test were re-supplied to the DSCC without destroying them.
However, all the lots provided later in DSCC have been accepted by field test.
Despite the increase in mosquitoes, the DSCC has reduced the number of workers engaged in mosquito control. The rest have been transferred to the secretary’s office, leaving a certain number of staff employed in the wards of different regions of the organization. Entomologists and citizens see the reduction of staff in this season of dengue as extreme negligence. They say that, where the city corporation is working with less than half of the manpower, it may not be reasonable to reduce the staff.
Especially in this dengue season, the decision to reduce staff by the city corporation is one of the major reasons for the rising of mosquitoes. According to DSCC health department sources, there are around 13 to 18 staff members in each ward. From this, three to six staffs were reduced and transferred to the secretary’s office. About 300 workers have been withdrawn from all the wards. From there, they are being posted as office assistants at different areas.
ABM Amin Ullah Nuri, Chief Executive Officer of the DSCC, said, “Most of the wards have extra manpower and we are withdrawing them and putting them to different jobs.”
Kabirul Bashar, Prominent Entomologist and Professor of Zoology Department at Jahangirnagar University said, “The city corporations are working on less than half of the manpower required to control mosquitoes in a ward. He added that the city corporation needs to adopt a coordinated action plan for mosquito control. If the medicine is given in one place, the medicine will have to be given again in that place after a certain time. Otherwise, it will not work perfectly.”
Abu Naser, public relations officer of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) said, “There are reports that mosquito infestation has increased in different areas of the DSCC. The mayor is also aware of the matter. The mayor has even directed the concerned departments to investigate and report back. He also instructed whether new drugs could be used to replace the ones that are being sprayed now.”
Local Government Minister Tajul Islam said, “After the outbreak of dengue last year, we have given staff, manpower, equipment and 10 magistrates to run the mobile court with a view to ensure mosquito repellent activities. However, I do not have any report on the return of staff from the ward level.”
Last year, on the advice of experts from Singapore and the country, the two city corporations took the initiative to launch two separate departments for the control of mosquito-borne diseases in Dhaka.
To this end, proposals for two separate projects called ‘Communicable Disease Control and Research Department’ from Dhaka South and ‘Integrated Vector Management’ from North City were sent to the Ministry of Local Government. But there is no response from the ministry about the project yet.”
DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam said, “The truth is that we have not been able to move forward with the initiative we have taken. However, there have been many meetings with local government ministries and ministers every day. Besides, I am continuing the work as per the instructions of the minister.”
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