The Sunday Leader

Moratuwa On The Brink Of Dengue Epidemic

  • Clogged drains, heavy floods, contaminated water

By Waruni Karunarathne
Pictures by Asoka Fernando

Most of the drains in the Ratmalana area are clogged causing severe health hazards to the resident of the area and dragging the entire area to yet another major dengue epidemic. While residents in the area complain that the employees of the Moratuwa Municipal Council (MMC) assigned to clean the drains do not perform their duty properly, the MMC is on the view that the residents are responsible for most of the clogged drains.

According to the website of the Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry of Health Sri Lanka, during the last two months, 6104 Dengue suspected cases were reported to the Epidemiology Unit from all over the Island – of which about 59.92% cases were reported from the Western Province.

High risk area

Public Health Inspector of the MMC, K.P.M Jayawardana told The Sunday Leader that the area has been identified as one of the high-risk areas of the Dengue. He added, “Even though Sri Lanka is reportedly has eliminated elephantiasis, two elephantiasis cases were reported recently in the MMC area. Leprosy is also prevalent in this area compared to other areas.” In addition to the complaints about the abundance of mosquitoes in the area, the residents also complain about the floods caused by the clogged drains. A resident of Nelumpura, Ratmalana, K. Lakshmi told The Sunday Leader that the area is flooded especially because many drains are clogged by the unfinished road and drain constructions.

“Now, stagnant water is in all the drains. When rain comes, the drains overflow and water comes inside our houses making it impossible to live,” she added. D. Dayani, an owner of a small hotel in Telawala, added that some people have turned their sewerage lines to the drains. Then drains stink of dirt and garbage – when they overflow with rainwater, everything infectious surfaces creating lot of health hazards to the residents. Her son Lohitha said that the drains in the main roads are clogged mainly due to the ongoing road constructions.

Incomplete drains

Thilak Kumara Soyza of Ratmalana told The Sunday Leader that many problems arise when rain comes –water on the roads rises to two to three inches high making it impossible for people to walk on them. He added that some factories send their waste to the drains and when the residents get in contact with the contaminated water when the drains floods, it causes numerous skin diseases and other infections. He added, “Half of the drain constructions are yet to be finished even though they were started many years ago. What we request from the authorities is to complete the drains as soon as possible.”

The residents of the area said that they requested from the authorities to address the issue – however, they do not believe authorities since this issue is being dragged all these while.

A resident of the 3rd Lane, Ratmalana Mr. Frank complained that everyone pays taxes to the MMC for their lands and properties and therefore the MMC is responsible for providing at least the basic services like cleaning drains and maintaining roads for them. “I pay taxes in between Rs. 4000 to 5000 per year. However, on top of the taxes, we have to pay the garbage collectors occasionally, otherwise, they do not clear the garbage,” he added. He further complained that when the residents want to get their drains cleaned they have to pay at least Rs. 1000 to the labours of the MMC to get the work done and another Rs. 500 to collect the garbage. He added, “Most of the MMC workers are engaged in private tasks in the area during their working hours. The overseers take bribes from the workers to let them engage in their own work without finishing their assigned tasks.”

Bribery

Another resident of the area told The Sunday Leader that she had to bribe twice the officers who came for Dengue detection. She said, “They pointed at some places where dengue mosquitoes could not possibly breed because I clean the garden at least once a week. Instead of taking a sample, they threatened me saying that they would file a case. They said the penalty would be over Rs. 5000. Just to avoid the hazel, the first time I had to bribe them with Rs. 1500 and the next time with Rs. 1000.”

She added that even though residents clean the drains adjoining their lands, the heavy vehicles travel along the roads constantly and damage the roads. The remnants of the damages block the drains. She said, “When some part of the drain line is damaged, even if we clean our drains, it does not make much of a difference.”

According to the PHI of MMC, Jayawardana, the Council has already taken necessary steps to mitigate all the health hazards – however it does not receive much public support. He added that every Monday morning, under the guidance of the Moratuwa Mayor, the unit gets together and decides on the specific events and programmes that should be taken to eliminate dengue and promote awareness among the public. According to Jayawardena, the MMC gets the support of the Provincial Council, Ministry of Education, military, police and officers of the ‘Divi Neguma’ programme in this regard. He also said, “There are five divisions under the Moratuwa MMC and they are Nagara Meda, Moratu Mulla, Soysapura, Katubedda and Koralawella. Each division has two PHIs while a team of 12 officers are deployed in the Municipal Council area to inspect houses to identify the Dengue larvae breeding places.

He added that each officer is responsible of inspecting minimum of 35 houses per day. “As part of the awareness programme, the Moratuwa Municipal Council has deployed two people to carry out announcements in a three-wheeler daily in a selected area,” he added. Considering negative health and environment impact of the fogging for eliminating Dengue, the Urban Council said that they would carry out it only if they found Dengue larvae at a location.

Shortage of labourers

However, Jayawardana added that according to the Urban Council Act, the residents are responsible of cleaning their premises and the drains near and around their premises. Yet considering the public wellbeing and risk of a Dengue epidemic, the MMC authorities have taken measures to deploy their labourers to clean the drains. He admitted, however, that there is a shortage of labourers in the MMC to clean the drains and therefore they have requested more labourers from the authorities – but due to the provincial council election there is a difficulty in maneuvering the labour. When the MMC needs extra help, he said they request more labourers from the Special Dengue Unit of the Ministry of Health.

He also agreed that the incomplete drains in the Ratmalana area, due to the abandoned project that was undertaken by a foreign company, have also resulted in clogging the drains making the already bad situation worse.

According to MMC authorities, they spend a large sum of money – up to Rs. 30 to 40 lakhs a month – on chemicals and labour force to eliminate Dengue. The UC reasoned out that they have managed to control dengue in the area with great difficulty. “Since the MMC area is bordered by Panadura from one side and Mt. Lavinia and Dehiwala from the other side, the risk continues, as high density of Dengue larvae are found in the bordering areas.” Jayawardana added.

Officer in-charge of the Western Province Special Dengue Unit of the Ministry of Health Dr. Dayan Jayathilake told The Sunday Leader that Moratuwa, Dehiwala and Kononnawa areas are identified that are on the top of the list of dengue high-risk areas. He added, “The Special Dengue Prevention Unit of the Ministry consists of over 300 permanent staff. We provide our service when required by the councils.” He also added that the government earns about Rs. 30 lakhs a month from the penalties against the people whose locations found to be with spots where Dengue larvae breed.

According to the mayor of MMC W. Saman Lal Fernando, MMC has the authority to take legal actions against the residents who do not clean the drains adjoining their premises – however with the support of many stakeholders the MMC has deployed its workers to clean the drains and a team to inspect the area to identify places with Dengue larvae. He added, “The council has 7 to 8 fogging machines and we do fogging at least three to four times a day at various places in the area.” He said, however, that they limit the fogging due its negative health and environmental impact.

Unauthorised constructions

He blamed the public for spreading the disease due to their carelessness. He added, “We have enough employees and have no problem deploying them to clean the drains, but in most of the places, especially in housing schemes people have blocked the drains with unauthorized constructions making it impossible for our workers to clean.” He added that these reasons cause floods during the rains and therefore MMC has to take action against the unauthorized constructions. He further added that the MMC has no authority to fine the public and therefore it has to file cases in the court against unauthorized constructions and houses with Dengue larvae presence.
Whoever who are responsible for clogging the drains have clearly created many health hazards. Their irresponsible behaviour has now resulted in spreading Dengue in the area. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the authorities to take necessary measures immediately to overcome the problems before it is too late.

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1 Comment for “Moratuwa On The Brink Of Dengue Epidemic”

  1. tonie thiruppathy

    Ratmalana comes under the Dehiwela-Galkissa Municipal Council and not under the Moratuwa MC.
    This article has many typos and spoilers and should have been better proof-read. I have given just a few of them, with my comments within brackets.
    1. health hazards to the resident of the area (residents not resident)
    2. MMC is on the view that (of the view..)
    3. Even though Sri Lanka is reportedly has eliminated (has reportedly eliminated)
    4.Just to avoid the hazel, the first time (I think the word should be hassle, not hazel.
    5. however, they do not believe authorities since this issue is being dragged all these while. (has been dragged all this while)

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