Anti-Aedes drive and roof-gardens  

Shihab Sarkar       | Published: June 09, 2018 22:09:53 | Updated: June 10, 2018 22:19:47

Beginning humbly two decades back, roof-gardening is now everywhere in Dhaka. Few areas in the capital are found these days without buildings having thick, bushy gardens on rooftops. Many high-rise commercial buildings also grow flower plants, orchids and small trees on their roofs. Despite their being amateurishly planned and earthen and wooden tub-based, they all fall under the category of gardens. Whatever the definition is, roof-gardens are in for troubling times. As gleaned from newspaper advertisements, the garden owners are set to be brought under the surveillance of the municipal authorities soon-in the case of the capital the two city corporations. The gardens have been singled out as being suspected contributors to the spread of the feared diseases of dengue and chikungunya. They have long struck the city residents with menacing ferocity. In the face of the sufferings caused by the two diseases, the gardens' aesthetic attributes are put on the backburner for now.

Earlier, roof-gardens were confined to the city's sparsely populated upscale areas. Over the last few years, they have begun spreading to the relatively modest neighbourhoods. Apartments owned and inhabited by middle-class people can now be set apart for the culture of the newly-picked hobby: growing patches of green and luxuriant foliage and flowers atop buildings. Roof-gardens have emerged as a common spectacle in the capital. Unfortunately, they are suspected of being linked to the breeding of the Aedes mosquito. Of late, these gardens have started causing worry to many Dhaka residents. With many still reeling from the outbreaks of dengue in Dhaka in the recent years, people in general have become aware of the causes of the disease. That the vector of dengue is a mosquito called Aedes, which grows in clean stagnant water after rains, is common knowledge in Dhaka. But many still are not fully aware of the disease. Meanwhile, the spectre of future outbreaks looms. These days the rising popularity of the roof-garden culture goes side by side with the fear of fresh onslaughts of the dengue scourge. The gardens being pot or tub-based, the dread over water accumulation and growth of Aedes larvae during rains keeps looming. But conscious garden owners do not take any chances. They are found spending considerable time to keep their roof-gardens clean and safe. But poorly maintained gardens dominate the Dhaka roofs.

To cope with the situation, Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) in media circulars recently announced pressing into operation special monitoring teams which will conduct house-to-house search for locating hazardous roof-gardens. DSCC warned the errant owners of these gardens of fines. In earlier public notifications, the authorities concerned urged the house owners to keep their premises cleared of rejected pots, green coconut shells etc. The Aedes mosquito grown in these containers has long been blamed for man-to-man transmission of dengue and, lately, chikungunya fevers. In the last 18 years, over 200 people are estimated to have died of the dengue fever in the capital; hundreds remained bed-ridden for over a month. Although not a killer disease, chikungunya also created a lot of worry and panic among people thanks to the acute physical trauma it causes to the patients. Like dengue, it, too, is feared to emerge as endemic in the capital.

A pre-emptive action of DSCC to fight dengue and chikungunya will surely cause the residents of the monsoon-water-logged capital to take heart. For dengue has been persistently visiting the city since 2000, exacting a toll on its residents. Chikungunya swooped on Dhaka last year. The news of DSCC's anti-Aedes campaign heartens the worried city residents. The drive ought to be in place right now, as full-blown monsoon begins in a week. There is a rider: the inspection job should be carried out fairly, with the teams comprising experts.


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