Public health at stake after every rain spell

Fire-fighting after the onset of monsoon will be inadequate to address disease outbreaks, warn experts

Every monsoon, the patients’ list shoots up. What triggers this seasonal spike is not hard to figure out: Lack of hygiene and environmental contamination. Across Bengaluru, the problems of drainage overflow, stagnant water, improper garbage disposal and lack of awareness seem to strike at the very well being of the city.

The spurt in monsoon-related problems only leads to more troubles for the civic administration. Here’s a section of Bengalureans articulating their views, woes and counter-views...

“The open gutters result in water and garbage accumulation, which breeds mosquitoes and spreads bad odour throughout,” says Ishani, a resident of Bhadrappa layout. A similar scenario is faced by residents of BTM layout, Gorguntepalya, Chowdeshwari and many others.

Highlighting the BBMP’s inefficiency, residents of Malleswaram complain about half-dug drains on main roads. This, they lament, not only obstructs their daily functioning, but also worsens the situation during monsoons.

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Improper sanitation infrastructure ends up contaminating drinking water with sewage. This has raised health hazards in areas such as BTM layout. Improper waste management, making roads and vacant plots into garbage dumpyards morph into abodes for insects and rodents, severaly affecting the health of residents.

This is a frequent sight in Thambu Chetty Palya, Yeshwanthpur, Hebbal, Chamarajpet, Kalasipalya, Seshadripuram and other areas. Spraying of insecticides is a poorly implemented exercise in many areas of the city. “It stopped three years ago in my area,” remembers Shanti, a resident of HSR Layout.

The other localities that face this neglect are K R Puram, Hebbal, Seshadripuram, Jayanagar, Old Airport Road, Rajarajeshwari Nagar, R T nagar, Vidyaranyapura, Nagarathpet, Vasanthnagar and surrounding areas.

The most common health problems faced by people during the rains are cold, cough and fever at an aggravated level. “Water and air borne diseases being the most evident, influenza flu, diarrhoea, viral fever, amoebiasis, filariasis, URTI (Upper respiratory tract infection), Hepatitis A and E, asthma and many more are on the list,” says a medical officer at the BBMP’s Primary Health Centre in Ganganagar.

These cases have apparently doubled their count this year, going by the records in Victoria and Bowring hospitals. Hospital staff attribute this spike mainly to the heavy downpour in recent days and the drastic weather changes.

The increase in patient turnout has also led to a shortage of medicinal stock at Victoria hospital. “Stagnant water in cities serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes. This leads to an increase in mosquito-borne diseases such as Dengue, Malaria, and Chikungunyak,” says Dr Amarnath K A from Navachethana Hospital. “It is the BBMP workers who are most prone to the spread of illnesses, as they have to deal with garbage very often,” he adds.

The BBMP and residents should work together to tackle monsoon problems, says a doctor at the BBMP’s PHC in Mathikere, preferring anonymity. Composting wet waste, he adds, should be preferred over dumping in bulk and creating garbage hotspots for spread of diseases.

Volunteer activities, health awareness programmes, spreading knowledge through curriculum and taking responsibility to keep the neighbourhoods clean and hygienic could prevent spread of diseases.

“BBMP should have total control over the drainage networks. Residents too should contribute by being aware of both their personal and environmental hygiene,” says Kalavati S, a resident of Chamarajpet.

Indeed, many residents welfare associations have been proactive in addressing concerns of hygiene. This could be seen in areas such as Richards Park and Chowdappa Layout, where citizens are independently addressing their local problems creatively.

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