Health Minister, Rajitha Senaratne recently suggested that the fine for creating a conducive environment for mosquito-breeding be increased to Rs, 25,000. Currently the fine is between Rs. 500 to 2000.
“Fine the Mayor and the deputy Mayor,” said YK Hemantha, a resident form Maradana. “There is a Colombo Municipal Council to maintain the city. We pay taxes to the Municipal Council for cleaning roads, garbage, drainage and everything. So it’s their duty to keep the city clean.” He declared that if mosquitoes are breeding within the city, the fault lies with the Municipal Council. He says that it is unfair that the public has to pay fines for Municipal Councils faults. “The CMC is neglecting their duties. The main responsibility is theirs, the people have only about one percent responsibility in the matter.
WA Lalith Silva, three-wheel driver and resident from Wellampitiya, opined that the fines are unfair and very difficult for an average citizen to pay up. “Everybody makes small mistakes,” he said.
Siril Wickremasinghe, a shop owner in the Maradana area complained that the Municipal Council only clear out garbage twice a week. “It is no wonder that mosquitoes are breeding. If the employees of the Municipal Council do their duty, mosquitoes would not be breeding. So this is the fault of the Municipal Council.” He also disclosed that the Municipal Council employees would not spray insecticide for controlling dengue mosquitoes, unless they are paid to do so by residents. Speaking on increase of fine to Rs 25,000, he said that it is unaffordable for the average citizen. “We will have to resort to drug peddling in order to pay the unfair fines levied by this government,” he declared.
However, most officials Nation spoke to regarding the increase conceded that government institutions and not individual households are on the top of the list of violators. Municipal Commissioner, VKA Anura admitted that most government institutes contribute to the dengue menace, and some have been taken to court for creating a conducive environment for dengue mosquito breeding.
National Dengue Control Unit, Community Specialist, Priscilla Samaraweera informed that government institutions, schools and construction sites are not keen on keeping their
Especially since mosquito control measures such as fumigation services are not provided for private construction sites, they rather pay the meagre 500 to 2000 rupee fine than keep their environment clean, pointed out Samaraweera. “Singapore is the best example for a fine-based mosquito control programm. Large scale mosquito breeding sites are penalized by revoking work permits.”
So far 47,000 dengue cases have been reported, leading to 76 deaths. “The number of cases declined somewhat in 2015, but again went up to 47,000 cases this year.” Health Ministry, Epidemiology Unit, Director Dr. Paba Palihawadana emphasized the importance of consulting a physician if one runs a fever for two consecutive days. She pointed out that patients waste money on various tests in private healthcare institutions, only to receive a negative diagnosis in the Dengue antigen test. “But this does not necessarily mean that they don’t have dengue, it may turn positive if retested in a few days.”
She informed that some patients, who had been discharged due to negative diagnosis have died from shock. Medical staff in private medical facilities does not provide the necessary guidance for patients they discharge. “They give patients medication other than paracetamol to control fever, despite repeated advice not to.” Palihawadana reiterated that potential dengue patients must not be given any other medication than paracetamol.
Highest density of dengue cases have been reported from Colombo, Gampaha, Kandy, Katutara and Kurunegala, revealed Palihawadana. This is not only due to an abundance of dengue breeding cites, but also due to human population density. Palihawadana pointed out that one of the reasons for the increase in dengue cases is the increase in mosquito breeding habitats. “As a result mosquito density has rapidly increased.”
Samaraweera observed that discarded receptacles make up for 50 per cent of mosquito breeding sites. “The rest are water storage containers and tanks and concrete slabs and equipment found in construction sites.” She informed that the nature of mosquito breeding sites differ according to geography. “For example, in the North shallow cemented wells make up most of the dengue mosquito breeding sites.”
Palihawadana emphasized the necessity of a streamlined process to detect and clear up mosquito breeding places. “Just keeping individual houses clean is not enough; there are many other mosquito breeding places, large scale construction sites government institutions and schools for example.”
Palihawadana pointed out that the lack of a proper waste management and disposal system has contributed to an increase in mosquito breeding sites. “Waste clogged drainage provides breeding sites for many types of mosquitoes. Pointing out that storm water drains also provide ideal mosquito breeding habitat, Palihawadana opined that drains and water retention tanks along with waste management mechanisms can be better planned when building new structures. “City planning, architecture and designing all have to go hand in hand to combat dengue.”
Pics by Chamila Karunarathne