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Indian Express
12 July 2010
By Pritha Chatterjee
Mumbai, India

Weeks after BMC announced a collaborative effort with the railways for joint anti-malaria operations, officials at the health department confirm that railway residential colonies in the city are still reporting the highest malaria cases. None of these areas are covered in the Arogya Abhiyaan –BMC’s flagship programme to curtail monsoon diseases –as these colonies are not slum clusters.

According to BMC’s chief insecticide officer Anil Bamne, “talks are under way” with the Central and Western railways to “repair” the 518 CR and 535 WR premises having 1,090 and 1,335 spots identified early last month, where mosquitoes breed.

He added that since Arogya Abhiyaan was targeted exclusively at slums, “there was no question of railway colonies being covered under it”. Sources in BMC’s Health Department say among the railway colonies, the residential colonies in Parel and Lower Parel have been reporting the highest malaria and fever cases, this season. Both are a stone’s throw away from the F-South ward office—the bastion of BMC’s health officers.

According to AK Singh, PRO, CR, “We have been carrying out our own fogging activities in the CR colonies. Now, we also have the BMC’s support and our joint efforts will begin soon.”

Residents of these colonies say “falling ill “ is an annual event. “My wife was diagnosed with malaria a week ago at KEM Hospital, and now my daughter has fever since last night. Last year, my son too suffered from malaria. Once it starts raining, practically every home has somebody reporting sick,”says MT Kamble, a resident of Western Railway colony.

Another resident, Ramya Kumari, complains, “I was diagnosed with malaria at a private clinic yesterday. I want to confirm the treatment procedure at KEM, but the fever ward there is a nightmare. I can’t go there in this condition.” She says the situation has been the same in the 20 years she’s lived in the colony. In the 43 houses of this colony, almost every house has a fever case, and 15 people have been diagnosed with malaria this year. In the 40 buildings of the CR Employers’ colony in Parel, 10 malaria cases have already been reported. Civic officials admit that last year these colonies reported a very high number of malaria deaths. Residents seek help at the F south office dispensary, or KEM Hospital or the private clinics in the vicinity.

According to Bamne, private water tanks have been identified as the primary mosquito breeding spots in these colonies. But residents say they have no choice but to rely on these tanks for water. “The BMC water supply here is extremely erratic. Therefore, we are forced to install private tanks. We have complained many times, but all to no avail,”said a senior railway official and a resident of the CR railway colony. “Last week I had to wade through thigh deep water to get to the station, after it rained. I’m sure a lot of mosquitoes breed in the potholes where water collects in such abundance. If the BMC would make efforts to get this water drained or fill the potholes, maybe we could save a lot of people falling ill,” he added. Bamne, however, maintains that “proper maintenance of water storage tanks,” is the solution.

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