Hundreds of hand washing facilities and disinfectant tunnels, installed across Dhaka city as part of measures to prevent the spreading of Covid-19, are now lying abandoned from lack of use, posing health risks.
In most cases, either the hand washing facilities do not have any actual facility for washing hands, or plastic and other wastes are occupying the sinks, which can turn into mosquito breeding grounds in the upcoming rainy season.
As for the disinfectant tunnels, they have been kept beside the main entrances of different government and non-government organisations and shopping malls.
Lax attitude on part of both the mass people and the authorities who installed these facilities, and lack of any guidelines on how to dispose of them have been blamed for this situation.
Hand washing facilities
The hand washing facility at Karwan Bazar, one of the busiest areas in the city, is now lying idle. An empty water tank of 500 litre capacity is occupying a portion of the road.
The facility, provided under the hand washing programme of the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa), has no soap and water now.
The sink has become dirty and clogged with plastic wastes.
Another such facility at PakarMatha of Shewrapara, set up by the local ward councillor, is also lying abandoned – also with no soap and water.
Two hand washing facilities near the Dhaka Wasa head office, one in front of its Lalmatia MOD Zone and others in different areas across the city are in the same condition.
Experts fear these unused facilities will help mosquito breeding in the coming days, which will increase the threat of dengue and chikungunya fever.
Kabirul Bashar, professor of zoology at Jahangirnagar University, said, "Abandoned hand washing facilities will become Aedes mosquitoes' breeding grounds in the upcoming rainy season. Aedes is responsible for dengue and chikungunya fever. So, these facilities should be either restored immediately or removed from open spaces to control mosquito breeding."
Dr Shariar Hossain, secretary general of Environment and Social Development Organisation, said these should be either made reusable or removed by city corporations as per the guidelines of the Directorate General of Health Services.
Disinfectant tunnels are now infectious wastes
Disinfectant gates were installed in front of the main entrances of government offices, shopping malls, commercial buildings and NGO offices after Covid-19 positive cases had been identified in March last year.
But the Health Department later gave instructions for not spraying disinfectants directly on people. Many offices have since removed the tunnels from the entrances but put them just beside the entrances instead of disposing those of.
Even the Department of Environment has kept its disinfectant tunnel beside the main gate of its head office.
The tunnel has now gathered rust from not being used.
The tunnel at the entrance of the Dhaka Zonal office of the Roads and Highways Department in Alenbari is still there, it is not used.
Some dirty curtains are hanging from the tunnel and people have to go through it.
Robed Amin, spokesperson of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said, "We have never told people to set up tunnels as it is not a healthy practice. There is a procedure to dispose of these tunnels and other infectious wastes. And those who set up the tunnels have to dispose them of safely by themselves. The tunnels have to be removed from the entrance points first."
Hand washing facilities needed to be made reusable, he continued.
If it was not possible, there would be no alternative but to remove those, he said.
"People are feeling relaxed as vaccines have arrived. But there is no scope for relaxing the health rules, including hand washing," he added.