Plants in pots, be it at work or home, look great in today's urban eco-friendly culture, doesn't it? That was the thought when a bank in Motijheel was decorated with Lucky Bamboo plants in crystal glass pots filled with stones and water.
The clients probably thought the plants in the teller counters were beautiful and that it was a nice touch.
No one, however, noticed what else was actually growing inside the pots. The Daily Star correspondent found dozens of young mosquito larvae in the water.
“What will I do? The management has kept the pots there,” said a middle-aged teller when The Daily Star correspondent asked her why they keep such pots which are perfect breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes that transmit dengue and zika?
The bank authorities probably did not know the risks, just like the other urbanites who leave plastic barrels, vases, buckets or clay pots with water in and around their homes.
This is dangerous as the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) in a survey last year found such containers to have high presence of Aedes mosquitoes in 16 areas of the capital.
The areas include Uttara, Gulshan, Lalmatia, Monipuripara, Mirpur-10, West Rampura, Dhanmondi, Lalbagh, Mitford, Motijheel, Ramkrishna Mission Road, Shanti Nagar, Segunbagicha, Shankharibazar, Wari, Patlakhan Road and Moghbazar.
Researchers found 20 containers with Aedes mosquito larvae or pupae in every 100 households surveyed in the localities.
The high concentration of Aedes mosquitoes is the reason for at least 6000 dengue cases reported in 2016, the highest since 2002. At least 14 people died of dengue in 2016.
Journalist Mahboob Smarak, who stays in a Dhaka University quarter in Nilkhet area, said he got dengue in August of 2015 and his five-year daughter was infected in August last year.
He said despite his home being in the university campus area, it is not that clean.
Empty crisp bags and left-over coconut shells litter the area which could hold enough water for mosquitoes to breed.
“We use mosquito nets at night but how can we protect ourselves when we work or study?” he said, adding that he rarely saw mosquito control activities in the area.
Civil servant Shahinur Rahman was infected when he stayed for some days at his friend's home in Tejkunipara in September last year. The area was quite unclean.
“A good number of mosquitoes bit me when I used the toilet,” he said, adding that he needed blood transfusion.
People in general and the authorities concerned are not taking appropriate measures to make sure that there are no breeding grounds of mosquitoes, like in decorative plant pots.
Prof Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said urban lifestyle, open water reservoirs of under-construction buildings, and wastes, including empty cans, tires, tubes, coconut shells, are major factors for the rise in Aedes mosquito numbers.
Construction workers in the city state Singapore were mostly affected by zika in August and September this year, she said, suggesting that construction sites in the ever-expanding Dhaka should be monitored closely.
Prof Saif Ullah Munshi of virology department at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University said much of the capital, and especially its peripheries, remains out of effective waste management system, while building of structures haphazardly and leaving containers here and there make perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.
“The authorities must rise to the occasion and take a strong policy and work in unison in all fronts -- mosquito control and creating awareness,” he said.
Prof Sanya Tahmina, director (communicable disease), at the DGHS, said it was urgent that the city corporations strengthen mosquito control programmes to save the country from major outbreaks of dengue and zika.
Engaging Rajuk, flat owners' associations, Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh in the programme could be quite effective, she said.
Brig Gen SMM Saleh Bhuiyan, chief health officer (CHO) of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), said, “The law does not permit us to enter private properties [to spray larvicide].”
“The people, therefore, have a great role to play … they should avoid keeping any water containers in and outside their homes,” Saleh Bhuiyan told The Daily Star.
According to the DNCC, a total of 165 canals, ponds and water reservoirs in its jurisdiction belong to other organisations like Bangladesh Railway, Bangladesh Telecommunication Company Ltd, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), and Bangladesh Power Development Board.
These areas had not come under mosquito control activities until recently.
Considering high dengue prevalence in Dhaka, the DNCC has taken an initiative to clean these 165 water bodies on 2,273 bighas of land, Saleh said. “Many of these have already been cleaned,” he claimed.
The Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) too has similar water bodies, the exact number of which the DSCC does not know. They belong to other authorities and remain beyond its mosquito control programme.
Brig Gen Sheikh Salauddin, CHO of the DSCC, said they were thinking about carrying out anti-mosquito activities in such water bodies even if it required them to impose charges on their owners.