A research study by Transparency International Bangladesh has revealed what we had feared—that Dhaka’s two city corporations did not do their job in taking the necessary steps needed to prevent the dengue epidemic that has taken at least 146 lives. And it was not only inefficiency or inertia that was behind this fiasco but clear corruption. The research has found major irregularities in the buying of pesticides along with unplanned mosquito drives and a lack of a national work plan—all factoring in the outbreak of this epidemic that infected thousands.
This is unacceptable, especially when there have been dengue outbreaks in the last few years. We knew there would be another outbreak this year so why was it not given enough importance at the local and national levels? According to the TIB research, instead of applying larvicide that would have killed the eggs and prevented mosquitoes from breeding, the two city corporations conducted mosquito drives with adulticides. Larvicides, experts say, would have been 80 percent effective while adulticides are only 30 percent effective. We cannot fathom why experts were not consulted before conducting drives that would have actually stopped the breeding of mosquitoes and therefore the terrible epidemic. The study, moreover, says that Aedes mosquitoe management requires a multi-pronged approach that includes environmental management, organic management and mechanical management.
The allegations of irregularities during purchase of insecticides are quite shocking. According to the report, Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) bought insecticides from a company that Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) had blacklisted, that too at a much higher price than what had been offered to DNCC. The report alleges insecticides and fuel of fogging machines being sold off and larvicide being discarded.
The predictable reaction to this report will no doubt be denial by the city corporations. In this regard, we urge both city corporations to thoroughly investigate these allegations and if proven true, the authorities must take stringent measures against the culprits who have caused unbelievable public suffering because of their greed. The report has given many insightful recommendations including developing a work plan involving all stakeholders, amending existing laws, giving instructions to real estate companies, government and private organisations on how to control mosquito breeding. Proper surveys involving the relevant directorate and icddr, b have to be conducted in Dhaka and outside to identify the breeding areas. The city corporations of Dhaka and other cities as well as municipalities outside the capital should take lessons from this debacle and make sure all the recommended measures are taken to prevent another epidemic next year.