Public well at Dempo Bhat, Tonca Panaji… a saving race during PWD shortage but rarely cleaned and maintained, pools of water gather here to serve as sanctuaries for dengue mosquitoes
By Our Special Correspondent
IT’S always the badly maintained pockets of urban living in a town or city which breed the malarial and viral fevers like dengue to take a toll on health and life. The young may recover better, the old may slip into complications. Dempo Bhat, down a back lane of historical Tonca Junction (dividing Taleigao from Panaji in the old days, little difference now), is a verdant green pocket with glorious trees, but there is a highly polluted St Inez nullah (one time St Inez Creek flowing with fresh water from the Altinhos) in the background, where migrant workers live in virtually hole-in-the-wall hovels surrounded by heaps of garbage.
Be it green festering garbage or plastics-filled piles here and there with all manner of junk lying around for years on end like treasure for some of the residents here. With the bonanza of rain in August and September and the bad filling up of potholes, there’re any amount of fresh water pools for the fancily christened Aedes aegypti (recognize this dark fairy like mosquito with its typical white legged markings of approximately 4 to 7 millimeters with silver tipped scales), it is a day time biter and active the most in the dawn and dusk hours, so if you have a habit of sitting out on your balcao or balcony you need to take precautions.
The dengue mosquito breeds quickly in clear, fresh-rain-water pools collected in discarded tyres, plastic and other containers, coconut shells, etc, which collect around a ground-based residence and of course in badly done pothole jobs which leave residual pockets of water. Monsoon time in the back squalid alleys of slum colonies in Camara bhat, Dempo bhat, Caranzalem and other similar badly CCP-serviced areas, including badly maintained gated residential colonies, turn into a haven for dengue breed of mosquitos. And this year because of Panaji by-elections town-cleaning has been dismal and neglected in the pre-monsoon months.
Add to all this the now perennial hillocks and piles of garbage openly or in plastic bags down street corners and pavements where folk like to park their garbage in bags to discourage two-wheeler or any other parking! In areas like Dempo bhat which are actually paddy fields with water drainage blocked up by high-rise building blocks on one hand and low shanty colonies on the other, the situation is particularly grim. It is irony that gutters are built to solve the drainage problem but these same gutters with their badly laid heavyweight cement covers get packed up with garbage and rain water to literally create high risk breeding and running grounds for mosquitos and other vermin.
Over the last month a resident here commented that there have been at least 20 cases of dengue, with both children and seniors affected by the symptoms of dengue which are fever intermittently, a heavy head, flaming red rash over face and body, muscle and joint pain, giddiness with failing blood pressure and some more. Most get admitted to the GMC wards but local private small hospitals and clinics also report a rush of dengue cases this monsoon.
Courtesy a patient’s query to a doctor in his clinic we learned that dengue infections — which are viral infections — have four closely related serotypes named DEN-1, DEN-2 and DEN-3 and DEN-4. These four viruses are called serotypes because each has a different interaction with the antibodies in human blood serum. Generally speaking, experienced general practitioner Dr Shyam Bhandari said, “There are only two kinds of dengue fevers, the non-hemorrhagic and hemorrhagic kinds, the latter kind can sometimes prove to be fatal if not treated correctly in time which is very difficult to do!” Dr Aurea Mascarenhas at the Menezes Polyclinic added that dengue is to do with falling platelet count and while normal healthy counts are a lakh plus, anything below 40,000 or so is a critical situation for dengue patients. Any treatment including platelet infusion is a challenge. Is there any standard protocol in platelet infusion therapy? Reportedly, platelet infusion therapy to boost a dengue patient’s immunity levels is done at the GMC as well as some smaller private hospitals. The concern is critical infection taking over in badly conducted platelet infusion therapy.
Most people don’t know the difference between malaria and dengue fever which comes with chills, pain, and fever off and on. The incubation period after being bitten by a dengue mosquito is about a week to ten days and then infected mosquitoes go on a spree in a close community living cheek by jowl as in places like Dempo bhat . Ask residents here and most are quite familiar with both malaria and dengue because there’s scarcely a household not affected by either or both. The Aeges aegypti has evolved into an intermittent biter and prefers to bite more than one person during its feeding period and this mechanism has made it a very highly-efficient epidemic vector mosquito.
With the Chovoth celebrations running high, and no let up in copious rain fall through August and now September…most people may be ignorant or helpless to prevent the collection of temporary water pools and junk litter everywhere. It’s a deadly combination for all who reside here regardless of being better or worse off in economic terms. Mosquitoes don’t discriminate on basis of caste, color, religion or economic status! Rainfall, drainage and green and dry garbage is a sorry, continuing and malingering situation, and especially aggravated by the recent water mishap when the Curti-Ponda water pipes breakage in a hill landslide left Panaji residents without tap water at home for a week and more.
During this time the struggle was on to acquire water courtesy PWD tanker or private tankers and they made the rounds leaving behind messy scenarios of water pooling here, there and everywhere, especially around the sole well here at Dempo bhat (both a saving grace as well as giving mosquitoes carte blanche). When there is no water on tap at home everyone rushes to the well to carry away pails and pots but few consider the gathering green and dry garbage around a critical invitation to breed and seek their bloody sustenance.
Down market Dempo bhat does not get the routine cleaning up which more premium areas in Panaji get. Altogether it’s been a bitter sweet Shravan-ka-mahina with the month of Bhadrapad setting in with more armies of mosquitoes zeroing in on their beleaguered victims trapped in cyclic tragedies.