The tiny mosquitoes have proved their might against all of our powerful city corporation mayors; they have remained invincible for decades.
Although mosquito control has always been a crucial agenda for the city corporations in Dhaka, the long-standing battle still continues.
The outgoing mayors have not been able to exterminate the tiny bugs while history shows that the predecessors of the outgoing mayors – Mirza Abbas, Mohammad Hanif and Sadeq Hossain Khoka – were also defeated by mosquitoes.
On May 13, 2015, this perpetual problem of the city was raised at the very first corporation meeting of the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC). The meeting was chaired by the then newly-elected mayor Sayeed Khokon.
Farid Uddin Ahmed Ratan, the DSCC councillor of ward-20, brought up the issue. He urged the mayor to increase monitoring of mosquito control drives and cleanliness programmes to control the rapid spread of the insects.
The issue of mosquitoes was raised at several other meetings of both the city corporations. The pressure was mounting on the mayors on social media too.
But the situation has not improved and mosquito menace intensified manifold year after year.
Last year, we witnessed the most dangerous outbreak of dengue fever in the country. At least 129 dengue patients died and 51,810 were infected in Dhaka alone during the dengue outbreak in 2019.
History of mayors' battle against mosquitoes
Mosquito control was the top priority of all the previous mayoral campaigns in Dhaka.
On January 30, 1994, the then opposition party Awami League-backed Mohammad Hanif secured the mayor post in the first ever Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) polls.
During his election campaign, Hanif slammed the outgoing mayor Mirza Abbas for failing to address the mosquito menace, traffic congestion, poor drainage network, waterlogging and much more.
On April 25, 2002, ruling BNP-backed Sadeq Hossain Khoka became DCC mayor. Before the polls, Khoka severely criticised his predecessor, saying that people had lost faith in the DCC because the problem of mosquitos, dilapidated roads and garbage collection was not being solved.
Khoka promised to launch a massive cleansing campaign to address the mosquito menace and pollution.
But like Hanif, Khoka also failed to control the mosquito menace, pollution and other burning problems. According to news reports, he was reminded several times at meetings with the government to keep the city clean.
On April 28, 2015, ruling Awami League-backed Sayeed Khokon, son of Mohammad Hanif, and Annisul Huq, an industrialist and media personality, were elected in the first-ever polls of DSCC and Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) respectively.
Among many other promises, Annisul pledged to launch anti-mosquito drives and to solve the waterlogging problem. He also vowed to introduce a modern waste management and drainage system.
Similarly, Khokon pledged to make mosquito control drives effective.
After Annisul's death, another Awami League-backed industrialist, Atiqul Islam, was elected mayor in DNCC by-election on February 28 last year.
In his election campaign, Atiqul prioritised sustainable waste management, mosquito control, reclamation of illegally occupied water bodies, and the availability of modern public toilets.
Now, just before another city corporation election, the promise of mosquito control is again on the cards of the mayor candidates.
Atiqul is campaigning now for the next DNCC election. He has vowed to launch an integrated vector management system to control mosquitos from the very first day, if re-elected.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, an Awami League-backed mayor candidate for DSCC, has pledged that fogging machines will not be sent after an outbreak.
"Instead I will launch anti-mosquito drives from the very beginning of my charge," he said.
In contrast to the Awami League-backed candidates, the main opposition BNP-backed mayor candidates – former mayor Khoka's son Ishraq Hossain for DSCC and Tabith Awal for DNCC – have said that the development being carried out in Dhaka is unplanned.
They said there are many other problems in Dhaka that are still unresolved, like the mosquito menace.
Increased budget provides little
Since 2015, when the office bearers of the DSCC and DNCC took charge, around Tk241 crore has been allocated for anti-mosquito programmes.
In 2015-16, the DSCC and DNCC allocated Tk12.5 crore and Tk11 crore respectively for mosquito control programmes.
While, in 2019-20, DSCC and DNCC allocated Tk43.3 crore and Tk49.3 crore respectively for the same purpose.
In their maiden budget proposal, DSCC mayor Khokon and DNCC mayor Annisul Huq said mosquito control was among their top priorities.
When Khokon announced the last DSCC budget on September 1, 2019, and DNCC's mayor Atiqul Islam did the same three days later, they again put top priority on mosquito control.