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Delhi's cup of woes spills over

Delhis cup of woes spills over

Belying the impression that the spread of vector-borne diseases this year is not as severe in the national capital as in the past years, the latest data shows that at least 260 cases of dengue have been reported over the last week and 811 this month till November 24. Last month, as many as 1,114 cases of dengue fever were reported and the total number of patients suffering from dengue this year has climbed to 2,406. Usually, the breeding season of dengue mosquitoes falls between July and mid-December, during the rainy season and the early winter when the temperature in the region is 20 degree Celsius. While the number of patients suffering from dengue is relatively less this year, there is still more than a month left when it can strike and claim more casualties. So, the civic bodies, that are entrusted with the task to ensure that the spread of dengue fever does not reach critical levels, need to remain active on the preventive measures. The reason why dengue has not been so severe so far is that there has been more than average rainfall in the national capital that washed off most of the mosquito breeding spots. But with time and a conducive climate, the mosquitoes can once again start breeding on a large scale and the epidemic can return with a vengeance. So, both the civic bodies and healthcare centres and hospitals need to remain alert.

Despite it being the national capital, Delhi is one of the filthiest cities in the country. The biggest problem is the amount of garbage that it generates on a daily basis. There are some landfill sites which have taken the shape of a mountain; so much of garbage has been dumped there and the process is still on. Then, the city has a wide network of drains and sewer lines which are mostly clogged and leaking. Besides polluting the environment, these drains and sewer lines also contaminate the supply of drinking water. Despite the supply of drinking water in adequate measure, very few people actually use the water for drinking -- not because the water is dirty at source but because of the contamination that takes place due to the haphazard and poorly-maintained network of drains and sewer lines. As a result, much of the entire city is dependent on bottled water for drinking and cooking. There are a number of reputed brands in the bottled water segment as well as a number of informal players who use the same water that is supplied by Delhi Jal Board (DJB) and claim to treat it with RO technology before it is sold to the consumers. There is a significant difference in the price point on which the branded and the non-branded water is available in the market. During rainy season, the water supplied by DJB as well as the informal players is all the worse because of a higher degree of contamination. Naturally, people fall sick after consuming the poor quality of water that is available in the national capital. But the problem is not Delhi-specific; it is the same everywhere in big cities in the country.

Not all the garbage generated in the city reach landfill sites, much of it can be found in any vacant plot, fields, gardens, and the roadside, rendering the overall image of the national capital as a dirty city. However, there is an exception and that is in the Lutyens' Delhi – it looks spick and span and greener than the rest of the city. But as one comes out of this privileged zone where only a handful of people live, one gets face-to-face with the real Delhi which is not only dirty and infested with mosquitoes but also a traffic nightmare where millions of vehicles struggle for road space at high speeds – a deadly cocktail of everything bad. But of all the problems that Delhi faces, air pollution is the nastiest one as it perpetually remains many times higher than the safe limits, giving Delhi the sobriquet of a gas chamber. Delhi can take pride in the fact that it has the best schools and colleges in the country, the best law and order situation among similar cities around the world and a number of historical and contemporary architectural marvels. But on the health front, the city is nothing less than a disaster, with the only river it has polluted beyond redemption. Though dengue and other vector-borne diseases this year have not been as severe as last year or the year before that, the cup of woes is spilling over for most of the residents here.

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