Rain and outbreak in Hyderabad: Seasonal diseases flourish on infrastructural and enforcement lapses

With monsoon well and truly set all over the State resulting in heavy rains,  citizens use umbrellas for cover in Hyderabad on Thursday.

With monsoon well and truly set all over the State resulting in heavy rains, citizens use umbrellas for cover in Hyderabad on Thursday. | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

Continuous downpour is the harbinger of another bad news for the residents of Hyderabad, apart from the immediate travails of inundation and traffic woes.

Seasonal diseases just lurk around the corner of every spell of rain, in the form of water pollution, mosquitoes and other such scourges.

While the footfall of out patients has increased to Basti Dawakhanas and tertiary hospitals in the city, predominant among them are the gradually-increasing cases of dengue and typhoid fevers, which spread through mosquitoes and food or water contamination respectively.

Both point to the absence of effective disease prevention or control strategies on part of the civic and public health authorities.

Achilles heel

Officials vouch by their vector control and water purification measures, yet sanitation continues to be the Achilles heel for the city’s civic maintenance, giving scope for disease eruption every year.

Officials from the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply & Sewerage Board (HMWS&SB) said the samples tested on daily basis for water quality have been increased from 8,000 to 20,000 after the monsoons.

In order to bring down the turbidity of flood water of Godavari to normal levels, Poly Ammonium Chloride is being used in addition to the 10 lakh chlorine tablets being distributed to households in areas with high potential of water-logging.

Water quality is being monitored constantly in the Board’s own labs as well as third party food labs. Senior officials are conducting door-to-door inspections for water quality, a top official informed.

On vector control front, GHMC’s Entomology wing has been carrying out anti-larval operations in all the inundated areas, and high risk areas, officials informed.

Each Entomology worker has been given three colonies to take care of, where he will carry out anti-larval operations and adult mosquito measures. A total of 628 colonies in low lying areas have been identified within GHMC purview where the anti-larval spraying would be intensified.

“Usually, during heavy rains, all the larvae get washed away, making the city mosquito-free for some time. However, stagnant and stored water are fertile breeding ground for immediate hatching. Within one week, the eggs hatch and the situation would come back to square one. Hence, anti-larval and mosquito control operations should be continuous in order to disrupt the mosquito lifecycle ensure disease free environment,” says chief entomologist of GHMC A. Rambabu.

In addition to the regular work, GHMC is also making efforts to remove weed from the city’s lakes and Musi river, which are highly conducive to larval growth.

“Floating trash collectors have been given one for each zone, which are rotated among the lakes for removal of weed. Thanks to the rains, all the weed has disappeared from Musi river. Besides, drones are being used to spray the anti-larval chemical in the lakes and Musi river,” Dr. Rambabu said.

Starting from this week, the campaign against dengue will be resumed, and households will be urged to empty vessels of stored water, in order to prevent hatching of adult mosquitoes, he said.

Overhaul needed

However, such expedient measures only serve to postpone the peril, but not to eradicate it. Besides, their cumulative cost would be a burden on the exchequer. If the past outbreaks are any proof, the city is desperately in need of an overhaul and not temporary fix-ups.

While several crores of rupees of public money is being spent on removal of weed every year, the source of the problem goes unchecked. Tonnes of raw sewage continues to flow into the lakes and Musi from various localities of the city, rendering all the efforts to control weed growth redundant.

Despite the largely acknowledged fact that open plots and locked houses in the city are fertile grounds for breeding of mosquitoes, measures are not stringent against the owners for failing to maintain the premises. A large number of plots and deserted houses in the city are serving as garbage dumps, where rainwater accumulation leads to breeding of Aedes Aegypti mosquito in swarms.

Age old sewer lines in the city contribute to issues arising out of water pollution, as witnessed earlier when severe contamination led to deaths in certain areas in the city. Drinking water pipelines alongside the sewer lines has been the curse in the city for decades, so much so that even the poor households are spending a bomb on commercially sold water bubbles, rather than drinking the water supplied by the Board.

There is no control on the quality of water sold in the bubbles either. Though it is common knowledge that food outlets are major source of contamination and disease spread, little proactive measures are taken to ensure food and water quality.

Inspection of food outlets is taken up only when there is a complaint about an occasional cockroach or insect in food, and even in such cases, no data exists about the result of sample testing and action taken against the outlets. The offenders are let away with nominal penalties.

“To take up wide ranging inspections, the existing food labs are not sufficient to take the burden of so many samples. There are private labs, but it requires more funding,” said a food safety official on condition of anonymity.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2022 2:00:32 pm |