TIRUVALLUR: When they were hit by a severe water crisis, like they had never seen before, residents of Tiruvallur thought the best way to manage their affairs was to store freshwater at homes. They used every drum, pot, and vessel to stock water for their everyday needs. Little did they know that they were creating safe breeding grounds for dengue-carrying mosquitoes. Tiruvallur is one of the districts to be hit hard by dengue. Hospitals around the district are full, with some beds being shared by multiple persons. Health department officials have put the blame on residents, and their lack of awareness with regards to storing water. It’s not without reason.
Residents on Perumal Koil Street of Thirumullaivoyal were seen storing water in huge plastic barrels. The entire street is lined up with such barrels, which can hold several litres of water. However, they are covered either with cloth or broken lids. “Water tankers come here only once a week,” says septuagenarian Muniamma. “So we need to store enough to last us that long.”
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“We use this water for washing clothes and other purposes. For drinking, we have to buy water separately,” says Muniamma. While residents have been following unsafe methods of storing water, officials who failed to supply adequate water to the district adjoining the metropolitan city, are equally responsible, they say.
The Health Department has also not taken action to keep the locality clean, say residents. Proper inspections were not conducted in Tiruttani, where high number of fever and dengue cases have been reported. Neglected waterbodies like lakes and ponds also pose a threat as they breed mosquitoes. Going by the algal bloom and insects, rainwater has been stagnating for days at Dr. Radhakrishnan Government Boys High School. “There has been no panchayat election, so there is no local administration. As a result, there’s no surveillance or inspections,” says D Palani, a resident of Tiruttani.
“Officials come, sprinkle some bleaching powder here and there, and go. That too, only if there are any deaths,” says Palani. But what the administration cannot do, students have successfully managed to, in several areas. Thooimai Thoothuvan, or cleanliness ambassadors, are students nominated by schools to carrying the message of dengue prevention.
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They have been effective in creating awareness. “Today, we went to a colony and found mosquitoes breeding in small cement tanks. We emptied the water and cleaned it up. We were told that containers should be washed neatly and used,” says a class X student at Government High School in Kanakammachatram. “We have been told to keep our surroundings clean from stagnation of water, remove unused containers, like coconut shells,” the student added.
3,400Dengue cases have been reported across the State since January. At least four kids have died in the last three days due to fever, of which one has been confirmed as dengue