Mumbai's apartments, high-rises breeding far more dengue mosquitoes than slums

Slums account for just a tenth of dengue cases and breeding sites reported in city; the rest come from high-rises, apartment buildings and old structures

For a mosquito, Aegis aegypti seems to have rather posh preferences. This vector, infamous chiefly for causing dengue, evidently prefers to reproduce in ‘cleaner’ environs.

A girl exhorts people to avoid indulging in acts that can cause and spread dengue, with the help of this drawing at Gurukul Academy, Lalbaug yesterday. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
A girl exhorts people to avoid indulging in acts that can cause and spread dengue, with the help of this drawing at Gurukul Academy, Lalbaug yesterday. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

According to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), one has little reason to hold the much-maligned slums responsible for widely spreading the scourge of the virus, since half the cases and therefore breeding grounds have been found in well-heeled housing societies, whereas just a fraction of the whole are ascribed to shantytowns.

A case in point would be actor Rishi Kapoor’s house, where a breeding spot was found under a potted plant, as this paper had earlier reported. The actor was hospitalised after being infected.

The civic body claims that 50% of the cases reported this year were found in apartment buildings and high-rises, 40% in old tenements and structures, and a mere 10% in slums. By and large, the proliferation spots were found to pose such a peril that BMC has directly started prosecuting 344 cases of breeding sites, without issuing prior notices.

Additional Municipal Commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh said, “After dengue outbreak in the city in the last few months, 900 BMC staffers have inspected 7 lakh spots. With this extensive search operation we have come to know that 85% cases of dengue breeding started in patients’ houses.”

He continued, “This year 864 cases of dengue have been sent for prosecution of which 344 have been sent directly. Dengue awareness seems to be very limited, since housing societies are still repeating the same mistakes not cleaning the water on their premises.”

The BMC has incidentally done a volte-face from its earlier statement about arresting people if viral spots were found in their houses. “We don’t have any right to arrest people for mosquito-breeding. Under section 381 (A and B) of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1881, we can only prosecute them,” Deshmukh said.

He added, “Compared to October last year, dengue figures are much higher for the same month this year, and continue to be on the rise due to a change in weather. It is expected to be colder right now but temperatures are much higher than normal, which adds to the breeding of dengue mosquitoes.”

Law officers from the local ward would see to the prosecution cases in the metropolitan magistrate’s court. They are going to follow the cases till their logical ends, officials said.

Aamir Khan for dengue awareness film?
With B-town perceived to be willing to chip in for the Swach Bharat mission, Shiv Sena leaders are hopeful that engaging a film celebrity for a short awareness film on dengue would be a smart idea.

Trushna Vishwasrao, leader of the Sena-ruled BMC house, has asked authorities in the corporation to get actor Aamir Khan’s help in raising awareness, as “his social messages have been reaching out to the masses and people would listen to him”, she said.

More vulnerable spots
BMC has identified 12 of the city’s 24 wards as 
high-risk zones for dengue. These are: 
B (Dongri, Princess Dock), E (Byculla, Mazgaon), 
F-North (Sion, Matunga), 
F-South (Parel, Sewri), 
P-North (Malad), 
H-East (Santacruz, 
Bandra E), 
H-West (Bandra West and Khar Road), 
G-South (Worli, Prabhadevi), 
G-North (Dadar, Shivaji Park), 
S (Bhandup), 
N (Ghatkopar) and 
L (Kurla) 
B ward has shown a 73% increase in dengue cases compared to September. 
Other than these areas, Walkeshwar, Madanpura, Golibaar Nagar and Juhu have also reported many cases.

Dengue stats

Cases
Until November this year, 659 cases of dengue have been reported, of which eight were fatal. In 2013, there were 927 cases of dengue.

Notices
Till now, BMC has sent 13,215 notices to places where they found breeding spots, and collected Rs 23.22 lakh in fines from them. Last year a total of 19,677 notices were sent by the BMC and R35.25 lakh had been collected in fines.

50%
The dengue cases reported this year were found in apartment buildings and high-rises, claims BMC

- Inputs by Chetna Yerunkar

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