KOCHI: Kochi Corporation has once again failed in its attempt to eliminate the mosquito menace in the city. The blood-suckers have made outdoor life virtually impossible and the civic body is clueless about how to curb their numbers. The corporation in its 2022-23 budget had allocated Rs 12 crore for mosquito eradication alone. Yet, not even half of that money has been spent.
The mosquito eradication drive is ongoing, only verbally, alleged opposition leader and member of the health committee, Antony Kureethara. “The corporation has no funds to carry out any drive at the moment. It does not even have the funds to spray workers,” Antony said. “The civic body has no funds for any project as it has messed up revenue collection. Though property tax ia now collected online, there are some hindrances. The collection is not up to date,” he added.
Kochi mayor M Anilkumar said that while it’s true the mosquito menace has worsened, the situation is not out of control. “The corporation has funds and is moving ahead with its mosquito-eradication drive. Each division will be given Rs 10,000 to cover the cost of fuel for fogging machines. We have also bought new fogging machines. The corporation has set aside funds for the drive from its plan fund,” said Anilkumar. He added that the public also has a role in curbing mosquitoes, by ensuring that there is no leakage in septic tanks and keeping the surroundings clean.
Health officials said a special team of 222 casual workers has been assigned under the HEAL project to carry out the mosquito-eradication drive in all 74 divisions. “Anti-mosquito work such as larvicide, bush cutting, etc, is ongoing. Fogging and spraying will be carried out soon,” the officials said.
The corporation has also decided to decentralise fogging in 21 circles of the corporation. “Fogging activities to curb the menace will be started soon,” they added.
Officials said that they have spent around Rs 4.5 crore alone to pay the wages of workers under the drive. The purchase of chemicals and other required equipment will be done from the funds kept aside from the plan fund, which is Rs 32 lakh,” he added.
Residents say no fogging is being carried out in the city. “The canals are yet to be cleaned up and we are exposed to deadly diseases caused by mosquitoes. Stagnant canals are a breeding ground,” said Ajith Kumar, member of the Ernakulam District Residents Association Apex Council (EDRAC).
“The drive should have started months back. But the authorities waited until the situation became unbearable,” he added.
The menace has affected the business of open-air cafes and restaurants, which become popular after the pandemic. “Till October, there were no major issues. But now things have worsened. There has been a rapid increase in mosquito numbers, which has affected our business. We are managing through online orders via Swiggy and Zomato,” said the owner of an al fresco eatery.