In the first of a series of reports on promises not kept by the Corporation, Aloysius Xavier Lopez runs through a set of ambitious mosquito control projects that still remain on paper
In the early part of the year, when residents did not have to worry about mosquitoes, the Chennai Corporation ostentatiously announced a slew of initiatives to neutralise the threat from these deadly insects.
Many of these measures, however, still remain on paper. Considering that the season of vector-borne diseases is on us, this delay can prove costly.
In February 2013, the Corporation announced that free mosquito nets would be distributed to poor residents living along the waterways, such as Cooum, Adyar river and Buckingham canal. The project was expected to cover all the fifteen zones. Initially, 78,184 households were identified as beneficiaries. Later, the figure was raised to 5 lakh households.
But, seven months on, not a single household has received the promised net. If these residents ever need these nets, it is during the months of September and October when mosquito density shoots up in the city. With the process of distribution yet to begin, reaching the target of 5 lakh households seems a tall order.
Yet to take root
In February, 5 lakh nochi saplings were proposed to be distributed to residents, primarily to those living in areas that are at high risk for mosquito breeding. These plants are believed to help ward off these insects. In June, the civic body invited bids from companies that could supply three-feet-high nochi saplings. The saplings have not been distributed, let alone planted in the planned areas.
Besides these simple measures, the Corporation also decided to draw upon cutting-edge technology to keep these vectors at bay. From a shortlist of 23 proposals, the Corporation chose one involving the breeding of sterile male mosquitoes, which would serve as agents of birth control.
The civic body commissioned the installation of specially-designed glass houses in city neighbourhoods, where sterile male mosquitoes of different species could be bred.
As it turned out to be cost-intensive, the project had to be shelved.
The 1:500 strategy
And then, the Corporation decided to assign ‘one malaria worker’ to 500 households. Their job would involve fogging these houses and also sensitising the residents about mosquito-breeding sources, such as drums filled with water and abandoned plots. The workers could walk in and take necessary action. But they seem to be reluctant to step into these roles of authority. In most neighbourhoods covered by this programme, residents say these ‘men of the hour’ don’t show up.
Councillor of a ward in Nungambakkam says 10 permanent and 10 temporary workers have been assigned for his area to carry out mosquito control operations. But they have done little to check mosquitoes in this ward, which has 9,000 households.