Mumbai: BMC paid Rs 26 crore for substandard fumigation oil

Updated: Jan 10, 2015, 07:07 IST | Laxman Singh |

The oil failed civic body's quality test last year, manufacturer was fined Rs 65 lakh; company doesn't even have a licence from Centre's Petroleum and Explosives Safety department, state’s health department

The spate of dengue cases in the city may find its source not in mosquitoes, but in the poor quality of oil used by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

mid-day has found out that the company that supplies the chemical used for fumigation had been fined last year for providing low-quality product, and yet, the civic body continued to use the same product in its fumigation drives, effectively rendering the process a farce and putting citizens at risk.

The company that supplied the oil for fumigation neither has a licence from the Central government to manufacture the oil, nor does it have a permit from the state government to sell it. File pic
The company that supplied the oil for fumigation neither has a licence from the Central government to manufacture the oil, nor does it have a permit from the state government to sell it. File pic

The chemical in question is Pyrethrum extract 2%, which is used to fumigate areas to kill mosquitoes and prevent their breeding. In March last year, the civic body had awarded a contract for supplying 2.57 lakh litres of the oil to one Nitapol Industries for two years, an agreement worth of Rs 26 crore. The product was supplied to the BMC through a company called Universal Organics.

Not up to mark
Nitapol was penalised in June, 2013, after the insecticide failed quality checks and was proven to be substandard. The BMC had ordered that a fine of Rs 65 lakh be deposited for the offence. Yet, the civic pesticide department continued to use the same chemical.

Manoj Kotak, BJP’s group leader in the corporation, alleged, “Nitapol has been banned in municipal corporations in Pune and Surat because they failed quality tests there. Also, in 2011, the Madhya Pradesh government stated that the company didn’t have the capacity to supply oil of requisite standards.”

If such is indeed the case, it is little wonder that so many dengue cases were being observed in the city even though the BMC claimed it had launched an extensive fumigation drive. Kotak further added, “This is the reason why the corporation’s efforts are not working and dengue is still on the rise.

What is the use of spending public money on the oil if it was not effective? If they had fined the company, why are they using the same oil?” The leader demanded an inquiry into the matter and also asked the sample to be sent to the Central Insecticide Laboratory. “The responsible persons should also be punished for this serious lapse,” he said.

What is even more shocking that the Central government’s Petroleum and Explosive Safety department has not even issued a manufacturing licence to Nitapol, a necessity for a government supplier. Neither does the company have permission from the state health department to sell the oil. The company’s contract ends this year.

Dengue statistics

BMC speak
If the BMC is to be believed, the low-quality oil is not being used. Speaking to mid-day, Rajan Naringrekar, the head of BMC’s pesticide department, stated, “In June 2013, after testing the oil, we found it to be of low quality and levied a fine of Rs 65 lakh on the firm and also replaced the oil.

In September the same year, we procured oil from the same firm. Upon performing all tests again, we found that the product adhered to proper standards, and, hence, we have been using it. There is absolutely no problem with the oil.”

“Every batch of any insecticide procured from approved suppliers is tested in the government lab in Thane and then in the field. If found effective in terms of (mosquito) mortality, only then does the BMC use the chemical for vector control,” he further added.

Additional Municipal Commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh said, “I will have to check on the whole issue, since I am not aware of it. We will only know what went wrong after a detailed inquiry.”

At risk
>> H/East ward has registered the 896 as the highest number of cases of dengue in the city
>> On Friday, two more doctors at the civic-run KEM Hospital in Parel were admitted for treatment for illness suspected to be dengue. Three doctors from the hospital are already down with the disease, and one has died of it

Rs 26 crore
Amount BMC spent on the poor quality fumigation oil

1.05 lakh
Quantity in litres of the oil supplied by Nitapol that the BMC has used till date

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