Come the rains, and along come the mosquitoes. And they do not proliferate just when it rains, having become a year-long feature. Chennai now has the dubious distinction of being identified by the National Institute for Malaria Research as an ‘endemic area’ for the illness. The Union Ministry for Health has ranked Tamil Nadu as a state with a high incidence of dengue – another illness caused by mosquitoes. What has the city’s Corporation been doing about it and, more importantly, are we citizens doing our best to help in the battle against mosquitoes?
There has been no dearth of solutions. In 2009 the great idea was the introduction of gambussia fish, a variety that feeds on mosquito larva. In 2010 it was the spreading of certain chemicals at strategic breeding spots. These were said to trap the mosquito eggs and kill them. A year later came what was then touted as the best possible solution and one that had met with some success at what was then the Alandur Municipality (now a part of Chennai) – the eco-treatment of sewerage so that it ceases to support larvae. This too was given up after some initial discussions. All three schemes, praised when considered, failed in implementation, thereby giving us an idea as to how our civic body works.
Mosquitoes had all along been believed to thrive in stagnant and dirty water. Then a few years ago we came to know of a new variety that breeds in clean water- such as in overhead tanks. This caused the dreaded dengue fever. The Corporation has now taken on the task of educating the general public on the risks of keeping water stagnant – be it clean or sullied. But it is going about it in such a slow fashion that it has hardly made any impact. The move to penalise house owners who do not cover water tanks, sumps and wells has also been lethargic at best. Earlier this year, the Mayor launched 150 hand-operated larvicide sprinklers and 15 fogging machines, to be used in the various zones. These are now doing the rounds. Last heard, the Corporation appeared to have given up on mosquitoes – its much-touted announcement of giving free mosquito nets to slum-dwellers, by itself an admission that mosquitoes are here to stay, has failed to ta ke off.
As a consequence, the city now abounds in a variety of mosquito repellants – a few electrical – a majority of them chemical based and therefore most harmful to users in the long-run.
What is forgotten in all this is that we as Chennai dwellers have contributed immensely to the proliferation of mosquitoes. The rising density of buildings and the cutting of trees have increased the surface temperature in the city, making it an ideal breeding ground for the insect. And the practice of violating set-offs, once unheard of but now most prevalent, has given rise to so many dark and damp corners where mosquitoes are practically welcomed in. The accumulation of garbage and the careless tipping of it into communal bins have also added to the problem. Most residents in the city are unconcerned about what happens to their rubbish once it leaves their premises. They appear to think that the vast unsightly mounds that litter the streets are the Corporation’s problem and not theirs. What nobody realises is that this accumulated garbage is ideal for mosquitoes to breed& nbsp; in, in their own neighbourhood.
Ultimately, we get the city we want and it may be best if we contribute our mite towards malaria and dengue control. For a start, can we ensure that our rubbish is put into the bin and not all around it? Can we design and live in homes that allow natural light and fresh air and, in the process, not take away what is our neighbour’s rightful share? And can we please cover our wells and overhead tanks? Once this is done, we can confront the Corporation on what it is supposed to do or has not done.