Calcutta, Sept. 7: This scene is not unfamiliar in Calcutta. A huge construction site, a couple of reservoirs brimming with stagnant water and several half-constructed elevator shafts, similarly filled with water. Even a cursory inspection reveals layers of mosquito larvae covering the water.
These are the breeding grounds of the mosquitoes that have caused a dengue epidemic.
But this is not a private construction site. This is the Calcutta Municipal Development Authority’s housing complex, Purba Abasan, coming up off the EM Bypass.
Government health officials have warned against precisely these pools of water in the battle against the epidemic, yet allowed them to flourish in their own backyard.
“In Calcutta, the fight against malaria must begin at construction sites,” said Sudipta Roy, national president of the Indian Medical Association.
“If the government does not get its act right in its own premises, what good will it do to preach to others'” he asked.
The government announced today that the death toll had mounted to 16 and the number of dengue cases had crossed 1,000.
“Dengue deaths have gone up marginally,” chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said.
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation today brushed the dust off the few fogging machines in working condition and hit the roads, but even civic officials admitted that this was “too little, too late”.
“The work on this should have begun a long time ago,” said J.C. Roy, acting chief municipal health officer.
Concurred mayor Bikash Bhattacharya: “What we see today is not what has happened over a few weeks. The mosquito explosion has taken place because nothing has been done in four to five months.”
At all construction sites The Telegraph visited today ' in Kasba, Jorabagan, Maniktala and Garia ' the story was the same: reservoirs full of stagnant water, mosquito larvae floating in them, contractors with tales that they were unaware of the danger, and CMC officials, conspicuous by their absence.
“We have to watch out for all places where stagnant water accumulates, not just construction sites,” said Gautam Mukherjee, secretary of the Association for Health Service Doctors.
“We met the government yesterday and tried to impress on the officials of the immediate need to do so.”
In one of the few damage control exercises so far, health officials met to discuss ways to combat the spread of dengue.