CITY authorities of Dhaka appear to have put a foot wrong in their notion that city people were farming Aedes mosquitoes, the primary vector of dengue infection that has wreaked havoc on public health, and should, therefore, be punished. The city corporations of Dhaka, the south and the north, ran at least 13 mobile courts on Monday against house owners and private entities, realised Tk 7.5 million in fines and jailed two as the courts found Aedes larvae inside the house premises. Official records show at least 55,000 hospital admissions with complaints of dengue infection this year, more than 36,000 having taken place in August and 33,013 in July. While 40 are officially reported to have died of dengue, private estimates have put the figure at 113 as of Monday. The dengue outbreak initially remained limited to the areas of the capital city, as had been the case since its first reported occurrence in Bangladesh in 2000, it started spreading outside Dhaka in the fourth week of July, spread all over Bangladesh in a week and severity in outlying areas outweighed that in Dhaka in one more week. Data show that September could be intimidating in terms of dengue infection if a proper check cannot be ensured.
In such a situation, the city authorities, along with government functionaries — who initially tried to defend their failure by way of quipping about dengue and even saying, that too in the last week of July when the infection has already been epidemic, that media reports on dengue infection are ‘rumours’ — appear to have buckled down to work. But, unfortunately, the city authorities appear to have put their foot forward on a wrong premise. The authorities are penalising people when Aedes larvae and pupae are found in their house premises where they should have run a heightened awareness campaign to alert people to the danger of having stagnant clean water in containers and to inspire them to clean the households and the surroundings. The fight against Aedes mosquito cannot be fought by the government or citizens alone; they need to work in step as the menace cannot be wiped out overnight and not even in a year. Such a move of city authorities is likely to distance people from government initiatives against Aedes mosquitoes. Besides a greater threat lies in public infrastructure and open space such as drains, ditches, ponds, lakes, storm basis and parks, playgrounds, recreational spaces and graveyards having litters that could hold rain water and potentially give breeding space to billions of Aedes mosquitoes. And it is unethical for city authorities to punish people, many of whom may still not have been aware of cleanliness as a device to kill Aedes mosquitoes, while the authorities have not lifted a finger to clean areas under their jurisdiction and to penalise themselves for their negligence and failure.
The move at hand of the city authorities appear, therefore, to be a stark abuse of power to raise a defence against their failure and neglect of duty. Besides, hardly there are any people in the capital city who have seen city authorities getting into mosquito control activities in years until recently when the authorities are reported to have used insecticide, meant to kill Culex mosquitoes, to kill Aedes mosquitoes which in many cases proved ineffective even against Culex mosquitoes. The authorities must guard themselves first before guarding people.
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