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A slum in Mumbai – breeding ground for disease

The Baiganwadi slum at Govandi is becoming a source of fright to the Maharashtra state and civic health departments//. Two confirmed polio cases have been reported in 2 weeks from this area. The water source and drains in this area are contaminated with dengue transmitting Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and malarial parasites.

According to the BMC health department statistics, dengue has taken 3 lives in this area; 2 in September and 1 in August. Totally, 11 deaths have been reported in Mumbai due to dengue this monsoon. Though there have been no deaths due to malaria in this slum, the number of people afflicted with this disease is on the rise.

The health department officials visited the slum and found it to be a breeding ground for diseases. The open drains were clogged with garbage and the narrow streets and water storage areas were dirty.

Local resident Zahid Shiekh (34) called the area a hotbed for vector-borne diseases. The engineer said, “Almost every fourth house in the slum has a family member who has suffered some water-borne illness in the past month.”

He blamed the BMC. “Officials hardly pay visits,” he said. “The region has seen no drain cleaning and desilting work after the monsoon. BMC’s road-cleaning efforts are also sporadic.”

But Assistant Municipal Commissioner, M-East, Prakash Patil denied this. “Garbage is removed round the clock and citizens’ complaints are addressed promptly,” he said. He blamed local residents. “The area is situated close to the Mankhurd dumping ground,” he said. “Most locals and rag-pickers sort garbage and lack awareness on community hygiene and cleanliness.”

He said, “The BMC has stepped up fogging and larvicidal measures in the area as a precaution. But an officer with the BMC’s insecticide department doubted the efficacy of the renewed cleanliness drive. “The dingy, congested lanes and closely constructed houses make it difficult for sta ff to move with the shoulder-mounted fogging and anti-larvae machines,” he said.

The officer said, “The area receives scarce water supply, so residents are in the habit of storing water for more than a week in drums, ‘an open invitation to mosquitoes’.” BMC Executive Health Officer Jayraj Thanekar echoed the concerns. “Moving about in that area is difficult,” he said. “We are doing our best to reach out to every home there.”

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