The Waste Management Authority (Western Province) informed that there was a hitherto unquantified land area composed of abandoned, neglected land plots within the Province, in the vicinity of public and residential areas, which were potential mosquito breeding ground sites.

Director of the Authority, Nalin Mannapperuma pointed out that measures had to be taken with regard to such abandoned, unmaintained land, which was apart from the garbage festering sans collection, one of the reasons for the dengue problem prevalent at present in the country.

However, Municipal Commissioner of the Colombo Municipal Council, V.K.A. Anura denied the existence of such within the City of Colombo, and also in town areas and urban areas coming within the District of Colombo.

Recently, Chief Minister of the Western Province, Isura Devapriya announced that a two percent tax (two percent of the total sale value of the plot of land) would be imposed on the owners of any property found to contain and host mosquito breeding grounds and sites, and that the State would confiscate land that had remained unused and abandoned for lengthy periods.

Officials have commenced the surveying of such abandoned lands to calculate the going market value. If the said tax is unpaid, then too can the State take the particular land into State custody. The tax may also not be a one off payment.

Mannapperuma added that the fine was consistent with the provisions in the relevant Acts and Ordinances applicable to the Provincial Councils and Local Government bodies with regard to the implementation of rules.

The viral dengue fever epidemic that is presently raging across the country has claimed the lives of over 200 persons and hospitalized patients, by number a little less than 100,000, the majority of whom are reported from the Western Province, especially the Colombo District.

Authorities on epidemiology, mosquito borne diseases and infectious diseases have warned citizens to be aware that dengue mosquitoes are found inside homes and have advised all suffering from fever persisting for three days to seek urgent medical attention and treatment.

Due to the continuous flow of and high influx of patients, hospitals are facing in certain cases, acute congestion. It is reported that in Negombo, there are three patients occupying one bed.

It has also been reported that private hospitals and private laboratories were charging fees higher than those prescribed in Ministry of Health instructions in relation to standard, general blood tests (Rs 250 maximum) and dengue blood count tests (Rs 1,000 maximum) including the nonstructural protein 1 antigen test, applicable for the duration of the current dengue epidemic.

Meanwhile, a team of World Health Organization specialists including a group of experts on dengue from Thailand invited by Minister of Health, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne handed over a report based on which it is reported that a new programme to combat dengue is to be launched.