A Malaysia Airlines flight was scheduled to take off from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12.30am with 150 passengers on February 22, 2018. But the flight was delayed for around 2 hours and 15 minutes. Though schedule collapse of airlines is nothing new for Dhaka’s passengers, but the reason of the delay was unique this time. It all started as the passengers on board could not settle down on their seats comfortably because of a sudden mosquito attack. When the aircraft was heading towards the runway with its passengers from the airport’s bay area, a swarm of mosquitoes entered the aircraft. Being disturbed and irritated by the mosquitoes, the passengers complained to the crews. Later, the pilot was forced to return to the bay area. And it took more than one hour to bring the situation under control. The flight could leave the runway after half an hour of spraying aerosol to kill the mosquitoes putting the airline staffs in an embarrassing position. Malaysia Airlines conveyed the message to the airport authorities as well. Albeit an incident like schedule delay due to mosquito attack happened for the first time but it was not the first attack of mosquitoes in the airport area rather the passengers have alleged several times of being disturbed by mosquitoes in the airport. When one of the most important places of the city is struggling because of intolerable disturbance of mosquitoes, then the condition of other places of the city is easily understandable. The hapless dwellers of Dhaka have been passing their days and nights with sharp peril of mosquitoes. As the outbreak of mosquito-borne disease chikunguniya and dengue came like a nightmare last year, the citizens are scared of going through the same experience again.
From home, schools, offices, business places to markets, Dhaka residents are suffering everywhere because of excessive mosquitoes. Residents of Mirpur, Kalyanpur, Pallabi, Adabor, Mohammadpur, Kamrangirchar, Kathalbagan, Manda, Mugda, Goran, Basabo, Khilgaon, Mirhajirbagh, Dholaipar, Jatrabari, Shonir Akhra, Badda, Banasree, Gulshan, Banani, Khilkhet and Uttara are passing a tough time. Though Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) have taken some steps to control mosquitoes but the common people have found it too inadequate.
“I live on the eighth floor of an apartment. Though I am keeping the windows always closed but I am still suffering. To protect my tender-aged kids from the mosquitoes, now I am using net in the day time,” said Suraiya Parvin, a housewife who lives in Sector 13 of Uttara area.
Mahmudul Hasan, a resident of Mohammadpur’s Bashbari area in the capital, said, “We cannot get respite from mosquito menace, though the city corporation has announced to take serious action to eliminate them. The employees are seen to spray mosquito repellent in main roads, but mosquitoes whine beside our ears even in the smoke of medicine. Besides, they do not spray that in the lanes and by-lanes. This has resulted in sharp increase of mosquitoes in the city.”
Residents from different other areas of the city said that the stagnant water bodies like ponds, drains, canals and lakes remain unclean for months. At least 26 canals in Dhaka have lost their water-flow leaving the stagnant water as the breeding grounds of mosquitoes. Potholed streets, broken drains, ditches and construction sites in different areas in the city also have stagnant water contributing to uncontrolled reproduction of mosquitoes. There are little activities of city corporations, RAJUK, WASA and Dhaka Mosquito Control Office to clean these water-bodies and drains. The people who are responsible to monitor these things have failed completely to perform their duty. Most parts among the 2,700 bighas of water bodies under the two city corporations remain clogged with dirt.
“Authorities are often seen spraying mosquito repellent in the area but the lake is never touched. Sometimes I see them fogging in the area but the waste dumped here is never cleaned and also mosquito repellents are not sprayed,” Shohidul Islam, a resident of capital’s Motijheel area, complained about the filthy and stagnant water of the lake behind Bangladesh Bank.
There are allegations that the machines and insecticides being used to annihilate mosquitoes are defective, and that there is lack of manpower in two city corporations of Dhaka to conduct the process efficiently. DSCC and DNCC are having a hard time tackling the mosquito problem in their respective parts of the city. Though every year funds are increased to free the city of the disease-ridden insects, but there have been no visible improvements. For the current fiscal year, the DSCC allocated Tk. 25.6 crore and the DNCC Tk. 20 crore for mosquito control programmes. The lion’s share of the sum has been spent on medicines and insecticides to kill mosquitoes. In the previous fiscal year, the allocation was Tk. 11.5 crore for DSCC and Tk. 23 crore for DNCC. Despite such huge allocations, there is hardly any result.
A report from the last year shows that DSCC has 940 apparatuses for killing mosquitoes. Out of these, 442 are handheld, 447 are foggers and 51 are wheelbarrow machines. Of the handheld machines, 208 are out of service. Of the foggers, 186 are completely useless, and 16 of them work partially. Of the 51 wheelbarrows, 18 work properly. That means in total 428 out of the 940 machines are completely ineffective. The situation is quite same in DNCC as well. They have a total of 653 machines and over half among them have broken down. The gears need maintenance and certain parts need to be replaced every now and then. The health section often applies to the store section to fulfill their requirements, but the store section replies that the parts of these machines cannot be purchased from the country as the equipments are bought from the foreign companies. If they send an email and contact with the companies, they can get replacement parts. But the officials are allegedly trying to procure new equipments instead of fixing the old ones. The officials said that the mosquitoes apparently do not die because they fly away as soon as they hear the loud noise of the machines.
Besides, the officials allege that mosquitoes mostly reproduce on the rooftops and gardens of the city dwellers. The city corporations’ workers do not have the access to go to these areas and spray the insecticides. They said that the mass people have to be conscious. The inhabitants of Dhaka have to think about their overall attitude towards the cleanliness of the city. They should clean their house and natural and artificial water-filled container habitats that support breeding of the mosquitoes. Besides, they can also use mosquito net to protect themselves from the outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases. If the citizens behave irresponsibly, if they do not clean the stagnant water in their houses and keep the environment dirty, then no effort from City Corporations can reduce their plight.
It is seen that every year newspapers, online news portals, radio stations and television channels need to give emphasis on the attack of mosquitoes before the rainy season begins. Due to the puzzling lethargy of the city corporations in taking pre-emptive measures to tackle the mosquito menace it seems like a new phenomenon every time. It is because the concerned authority and mass citizens learn nothing from the bitter experiences of the previous years, though the continuous epidemics of dengue and chikungunya wreak havoc on the city-dwellers. It is now the beginning of the mosquito-prone season and city-dwellers are already very anxious about how they will save themselves from the mosquito bites that may cause the deadly diseases.
Though mosquito menace troubles mass life every year but unfortunately it seems that the concerned authorities don’t have any homework to resolve this problem. They hardly know about the most mosquito-prone areas, varieties of mosquitoes, level of insecticides that work on the different species of mosquitoes and they don’t take necessary preventive measures. All the responsible office bearers blame each other and take post-incident action and conduct a few campaigns with a view to proving their sincere efforts. Such efforts only create an instant impression but never bring a permanent solution to the problem. If the authorities really want to control mosquitoes, they have to take visionary plan and execute it with utmost sincerity. Otherwise the repetition of the same old story will continue in the future.