Inadequate manpower hits mosquito control operations in Chennai

Residents say fogging is patchy and mosquito density has gone up because of uncleared garbage on the premises of commercial establishments and government agencies. Councillors say the number of workers carrying out anti-larval activities is inadequate

November 19, 2023 09:34 pm | Updated November 20, 2023 10:55 am IST - CHENNAI

Corporation workers carrying out mosquito control activities at Anna Nagar. The focus is on eliminating breeding places, and fogging has been stepped up to eliminate adult mosquitoes, says the Corporation Commissioner.

Corporation workers carrying out mosquito control activities at Anna Nagar. The focus is on eliminating breeding places, and fogging has been stepped up to eliminate adult mosquitoes, says the Corporation Commissioner. | Photo Credit: M. Vedhan

With mosquito density increasing in the city, residents have demanded that the Greater Chennai Corporation take steps to reduce sources of breeding. Residents have also complained that the Corporation workers have stopped visiting homes for fogging and anti-larval work after receiving reports of dengue cases in a house.

Hospitals have failed to share information on cases of dengue, malaria, or other communicable diseases with the Corporation to facilitate field visits by the workers. Usually, the field assistants of the entomologists in the Corporation visit localities for checking adult mosquito density after a case is reported. Most of the 500 hospitals and laboratories which used to share data with the Corporation on communicable diseases have not been consistent in doing so.

Vacancies not filled

According to councillors, the number of workers carrying out anti-larval activities and measures to eliminate adult mosquitoes is inadequate. Vacancies for many posts in the civic body have not been filled. AIADMK councillor J. John of ward 84 in the Ambattur zone says there are only 10 workers for mosquito control in his ward as against the requirement of 20. “Dengue cases have been reported in my ward. Of the 10 workers we have in our ward, two to three workers do not turn up for work,” says Mr. John. The increase in vacancies for sanitary inspectors has also reportedly affected the mosquito-control operations. At least 95 vacancies for sanitary inspectors have been reported in the city.

Spreading from uncleared garbage

Residents attribute the rise in mosquito density to uncleared garbage on the premises of commercial establishments and government agencies. “There is a lot of uncleared garbage near the Tasmac shop in our locality. The mosquitoes spread from there. Our house is full of mosquitoes every day. It has become worse since the rain started. There have already been a few cases of dengue in a locality,” says a resident of Jagannathapuram at Chetpet in ward 107. “In some parts, rainwater stagnates for days, and mosquitoes begin to breed there,” she adds.

Food waste, a problem

“Mosquito breeding is high at T. Nagar. No fogging is done on many streets. Further, the mobile eateries dump food waste. Earlier, Corporation workers conducted checks to ensure that there was no accumulation of water even on pots on which flowers and Tulsi plants were grown. That exercise is not being carried out any more. Furthermore, Corporation workers would regularly visit each complex to drop a kind of substance in open wells to prevent mosquito-breeding. This routine has been abandoned at most places. Water stagnating in storm water drains is another reason for the problem. Hence, regular fogging is necessary,” says B. Kannan, secretary, T. Nagar Residents Welfare Association.

Illegal sewers

Geetha Ganesh, secretary of AGS Colony Residents Welfare Association, Velachery West, says the Corporation regularly does fumigation. “If illegal sewers linked to the storm water drains are curbed, mosquito-breeding can be prevented to a large extent. Vacant plots is another breeding ground. The Corporation should penalise their owners and their maintenance should be monitored by the ward-level health officers,” says Ms. Ganesh.

Corporation Health Committee chairperson Santha Kumari says the civic body has been carrying out mosquito-control operations, utilising the services of 3,317 workers, in the 15 zones of the city. “Workers will remove mosquito-breeding sources from schools, colleges, residential complexes, government offices, bus stands, railway stations, and parks. Residents have been requested to cooperate with the Corporation workers while they visit the neighbourhood. Residents should also clear the waste accumulated on the terrace and their premises to prevent mosquito-borne diseases,” says Dr. Santha Kumari.

Corporation Commissioner J. Radhakrishnan says the Corporation has imposed a fine of ₹28 lakh for violations including accumulation of garbage on the premises. “While dengue is caused by freshwater mosquitoes, Culex breeds in dirty water and Armigeres subalbatus in septic tanks. The focus of the Corporation is on eliminating all kinds of mosquitoes, though Armigeres is technically viewed only as a nuisance mosquito, not spreading any major disease.

Campaigns go waste

“Despite repeated awareness campaigns, people and institutions tend to ignore freshwater breeding sources in immediate vicinities and tend to focus on dirty water. So, our source reduction activities primarily start every day with at least 40 awareness activities along with non-static camps, where we create awareness of the sources. Apart from this, 3,313 domestic breeding checkers have been employed. They move in cycles in the areas which have been divided into sectors and identify the breeding sources,” he says.

Dr. Radhakrishnan adds, “While tyres may be the issue at Pudupet, in the erstwhile slum clearance and housing board tenements and older multi-storey tenements, the uncovered blue drums are the primary source. Besides educational institutions and houses, where building construction is going on nearby, the curing water has been identified as an equally important source. At several houses, overhead tanks are improperly covered and, in certain cases, unreachable because of peculiarity in construction. In addition to all this, particularly in extended areas, there is vacant land adjacent to houses; people tend to use it for throwing plastic waste and garbage.

A receptacle for rainwater

“It becomes a receptacle for rainwater, allowing breeding. The measures to cut the source of breeding are aimed at these areas, too. So far, malaria larval oil and balls are used to reduce mosquito density in canals and water courses. Adequate fogging and spraying is done. Ultimately, source reduction is focussed on eliminating breeding places and destruction of eggs and larvae, while fogging is improved to eliminate adult mosquitoes.”

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