Nasima Begum lives in the Sagufta canal area under Pallabi Police Station of Dhaka North City Corporation. As soon as the sun goes down, she has to ignite more than three mosquito coils at home. Sometimes, even that proves to be insufficient in the face of the scourge of mosquitoes that surround her home.
Talking to The Business Standard, Nasima said, "On 8 March, workers of Dhaka North accompanied by the mayor came to spray mosquito repellants in the area. I thought it would decrease the number of mosquitoes, but the situation seems to have aggravated."
This is a problem not only Nasima is going through but the entire city dwellers are suffering from. During the dry season, Culex mosquitoes increase in numbers, resulting in the suffering of people. Both the city corporations carried out several eradication programmes, costing crores of Taka. Yet, the mosquitoes could not be fully controlled.
Earlier on 8 March, Dhaka North City Corporation started a region-based integrated mosquito eradication campaign (crash program) inaugurated by Mayor Atiqul Islam.
The operation is being carried out in one area of Dhaka North each day. In the last one week (till 14 March), the crash programme was run in seven regions. But the residents of Dhaka North are not getting any relief.
Talking to The Business Standard, residents of different areas complained that no improvement followed even after the crash programme.
Many ponds, drains, and bushes in the city corporation remain unclean and although there is water flow in some of the canals, small and big mosquitoes including larvae are visible.
Sarmin Islam, a resident of Taltola in Mirpur's Agargaon, told The Business Standard that after application of the medicine, it seems that the mosquitoes from outside have started entering the house.
Sujan Mia, a resident of Pallabi, has also reported dissatisfaction regarding the crash campaign.
On Sunday, Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Atiqul Islam said, "We have to leave the traditional method and adopt a modern and more effective one. We now have fourth-generation pesticide 'Novaluron' which was applied in several ponds with sticks but they were later removed with fishing nets."
Speaking about adding new technologies to the program, the mayor said, "We are considering using biometric trackers to properly direct the mosquito extermination workers during their work."
The mayor said that due to the monsoon, Aedes mosquitoes increase in number so, after the Culex eradication campaign, Dhaka North will start to work on that.
When asked if the mosquito repellents work at all, Entomologist Prof Benzir Ahmed (Former Director of Disease Control, DGHS, MoHFW, Bangladesh) said that Dhaka North's mosquito eradication program is grossly ineffective.
"They need expert entomologists who will constantly research about the correct dose for the prevention campaigns. Just fogging machines and spraying pesticide will not be enough."
Speaking to The Business Standard, Brig Gen Md Jobaidur Rahman, chief health officer of the city corporation, said, "We are receiving positive feedback about the campaign that is running for the past week. Many places have witnessed a decrease in mosquito population but complete eradication is impossible."
The responsibility of controlling mosquitoes does not only fall on the city corporation, citizens have to come forward as well, Rahman added.
Pesticides to be imported from Spain
Dhaka North Mayor Md Atiqul Islam also said that high-quality pesticides will be imported from Spain to control mosquitoes. He made the remark during a courtesy call on Spanish Ambassador to Bangladesh Francisco de Asis Benitez Salas at Nagar Bhaban in the capital's Gulshan area on Sunday. The Spanish Ambassador promised to extend all possible cooperation in this regard.
Workers engaged in mosquito eradication lacks institutional experience
Workers engaged in mosquito prevention are not skilled and are not aware of contemporary mosquito prevention methods. Several workers of Dhaka North requesting anonymity said that they had no formal training about how to apply the repellent.
Based on the proportions shown once, they apply mosquito repellent through fogging machines, they added.
Entomologist Prof Benzir Ahmed said that the mayor does not lack sincerity but only that is not adequate; Instead, manpower and training are equally important.
Md Jobaidur Rahman, chief health officer of Dhaka North, said, "We have four entomologists who take samples to determine the amount of medicine that needs to be applied. And those who work in the field have gained experience while working. So, separate experience is not required."
"I believe mosquito prevention is possible with our existing manpower," he added.