Over the past few weeks, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has stopped fumigation across the city on account of a change in policy for purchasing the diesel used to operate the fogging machines. Fumigation is one of the civic body’s crucial measures to curb mosquito-breeding and related diseases in the city.
The issue was raised in the standing committee meeting held recently when a proposal to buy oil for the fumigation machines came up for approval.
“In the last few weeks in my ward, there has been no fogging as part of the BMC’s drive to curb the mosquito menace in Mumbai. This is a major cause for concern as, with the change in weather and chances of breeding spots increasing, stopping fumigation poses a health hazard for people, especially where sanitation is poor,” said committee member and Congress corporator Asif Zakaria from the H-West ward, which includes Bandra, Khar and Santacruz.
Samajwadi Party corporator Rais Shaikh from M-East ward (Govandi, Mankhurd) said, “The problem is across Mumbai. Because of a new policy in purchasing diesel, there is a shortage of fuel in the fogging machines. To add to this, many of the health department officials and workers have been diverted from their services to election duty, which is causing a major staff crunch for carrying out fumigation.”
Additional municipal commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh in-charge of the health department told the committee the matter would be resolved this week.
“We have shifted from purchasing fuel in bulk to purchasing this at the ward-level as it is more cost-effective. We will resolve the issue shortly,” he said.
Dr Rajan Naringrekar, chief insecticide officer of the civic body, said the new standard operating procedures for purchasing fuel would have to be changed along with the new purchase policy.
“Diesel purchased in bulk is cheaper per litre by Rs 10-15 than purchasing it in retail. For the new purchasing policy, which came into effect from April 1, we had to set up a procedure and shift to new vendors for retail purchase. This has taken some time, causing a disturbance in the fumigation schedule as we are short in supply, but it is only a technical snag,” he said.
Naringrekar added that the Lok Sabha elections were not affecting the fogging schedule as only 10 to 15 per cent of the workforce have been diverted towards election duty.
According to Dr Mangala Gomare, deputy executive health officer at BMC, though fumigation has not been undertaken for a few weeks, there has been no significant change in the count of vector-borne diseases. “The total malaria cases recorded last month were over 500, and there were very few dengue cases in March. We have not yet observed a sudden spurt in any area,” Gomare said.