best-known way to check the spread of dengue is to prevent
mosquitoes from breeding in the first place. This implies
clean and hygienic surroundings in our towns and cities.
But, take any city and we will find untreated wastewater
and solid wastes being dumped into the open water bodies
or landfills. India Development Report 2002 states that
Hyderabad alone generates 373 million litres/ day (mld)
of wastewater; less than half is treated. Hyderabad's open
nalas and drains have become perfect nurseries for mosquitoes
and microbes; the word 'Musi' is now synonymous with a stinking
mess! That is why we see regular outbreaks of not just dengue
but also malaria and gastro-enteritis.
and bad governance system is the biggest hurdle on our path
towards a cleaner, healthier India. It permits the illegal
use of valuable public resources for private gain ('corruption')
and promotes inefficient use of the available resources.
Over a period of time, such a system has a more intangible
and harmful effect of magnifying the apparent complexity
of public problems. Let me illustrate:
in 'happening' cities like Hyderabad, more than half of
the households (nearly 4 lakhs) do not have proper toilets.
We urgently need about 140 million toilets throughout our
country. Building them would cost us nearly Rs. 35,000 crores.
It is not a tiny sum of money, but India is not a poor country
either. All the governments combined, spend Rs. 1800 crores
on our behalf - in a single day! If only our governments
decide to invest 20 days of this public expenditure, we
can easily build a toilet for every family in India.
this is not a technically challenging or costly problem.
We Indians have successfully solved far more complex problems
like putting the world's best communication satellites in
space. Why cannot we have a toilet for every house, a clean
Musi and mosquito-free Hyderabad? All the authorities need
to do is work towards:
Generating and sustaining public interest on such civic
2. Achieving consensus among the decision-makers (I agree
this could be a little difficult but it certainly is not
3. Promoting the most effective use of available resources.
small steps in the right direction could have a significant
impact. For example, in Delhi, the municipal by-laws make
the creation of mosquitogenic-favourable conditions a punishable
offence. Some erring government officials were even prosecuted
by the Delhi Government a few months ago under these provisions
of the law. This simple step serves to increase the accountability
of civic health officials.
United States of America probably has its largest 'fan following'
in India. We all have seen fellow-Indians who are proud
patriots, but if given a choice, would stay in the USA.
Why is that? Mostly because Americans have such good roads,
cars, buildings and of course, excellent public sanitation.
should be more concerned about another USA: Urgent Sanitation
for All. Universal sanitation is one of the most pressing
needs of our country. Also, better sanitation facilities
at the household level should be supplemented by improved
sewage treatment facilities at the city or town level. These
two steps, together with larval control, will greatly contribute
in combating the growth of mosquitoes and harmful microbes.
In turn, this would lead to a reduction the frequency and
geographical spread of outbreaks like malaria, cholera,
gastro or dengue.
India provides basic sanitation facilities to Indians, it
cannot even think about becoming a global power in the 21st
century. A cleaner India comes before a 'world leader India'.