NA mosquito nuisance is council’s responsibility
-health official
By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
November 27, 2002

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It is the responsibility of the New Amsterdam Town Council to fog the entire town for at least three consecutive days whenever there is a mosquito infestation. It is also its responsibility to ensure that drains are cleaned and sprayed on a regular basis, and that public places are kept free of overgrowth and garbage is collected regularly.

This is how a health official in the region responded when asked to comment on a call by the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association (BCC&DA) to “do something about this recurring health nuisance” in a statement issued on Monday under the signature of Public Relations Officer Norman Semple.

According to the official, “it is interesting to note that the Chamber is calling on the Minister to do something about the mosquitoes and not the responsible body....the New Amsterdam Mayor and Town Council,” he told Stabroek News yesterday.

In its statement, the Chamber said “the Mayor and Town Council did make some efforts at controlling the mosquito nuisance a few weeks ago by fogging with malathion, but have been unable to continue the exercise because of the high cost of acquiring that insecticide.” Prior to last month’s Town Day activities both the Town Council and a team from the Ministry conducted fogging exercises in some sections of the town in an effort to control the infestation.

The Chamber’s statement also pointed out that businesses are affected by the mosquitoes which force them to close their doors earlier than planned.

According to the health official, the Ministry has one fogging machine which has to serve other areas in the country apart from New Amsterdam. “We were heavily criticised last month by residents in other areas which were affected by the infestation, including the East Bank of Berbice, Sheet Anchor and some villages along the coast who accused us of neglecting them by only fogging in New Amsterdam,” he explained.

“For you to effectively control the gnats, fogging with malathion has to be carried out two to three hours in the morning and for a similar period in the afternoons for three consecutive days. The Ministry of Health alone cannot execute such an exercise, the Town Council must also play its part.

Apart from this the Ministry also has to respond to other areas where there are reports of infestation,” he said.

“Efforts,” he noted “are being made even though with little success so far, to re-establish the Vector Control Unit in New Amsterdam under the Environmental Health Unit.” He was however quick to say that if a request was made to the Ministry for assistance, it will respond positively.

Mosquito infestation has been a perennial problem for New Amsterdamers and residents living in close proximity to the town for as long as anyone can remember. Residents in other areas along the banks of the Berbice and Canje River and those close to Crab Island just off the mouth of the Canje River have also had to endure annual attacks from millions of the blood-sucking gnats.

Several local knowledgeables argue that the banks of the two rivers and Crab Island are major breeding grounds for the armies of mosquitoes, which hatch at every high tide. The mosquitoes launch their attacks on residents at least three to four times per year, causing widespread discomfort, inconvenience and fear of an outbreak of some disease, as well as a downturn in business.

Town Clerk Laurel Alfred in an invited comment said that it costs the Council approximately $40,000 a day to fog which puts a severe strain on the council’s purse.

The most recent invasion of mosquitoes took place just before the launching of this year’s Town Day activities which began on October 20 and there was a lull for a few weeks after the fogging by the Ministry and the Council. Another attack was however launched about three weeks ago disrupting almost every sphere of activity. According to Alfred, the Council is “cash-strapped” and is experiencing difficulties in obtaining malathion on the market. “We have checked several dealers and outlets in the recent past but have been unable to obtain any. Apart from this the insecticide is very expensive costing approximately $600 per half litre. The Council has a Motan fogging machine, which was donated by the British High Commissioner and two fogging machines, one of which is undergoing repairs.

The Council has come under severe criticism over recent years for its apparent inadequate approach to the mosquito nuisance.

However Alfred is urging residents to assist by keeping their immediate surroundings clean and by removing empty containers that harbour stagnant water and provide a breeding ground for the insects.

“We also have an employee who has been spraying the drains with diesel on a daily basis and this helps, reducing the possibility of mosquitoes breeding in the drains.” The health official is advising the Town Councils and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils [NDCs] to purchase fogging machines to fight the mosquitoes whenever they invade and to clean and spray potential breeding grounds on a regular basis.

The clogging of drains with stagnant refuse and sewage produces not only a strong stench but also acts as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and files. A number of vacant lots covered with overgrowth in several sections of the town, the non-collection of garbage in some wards, clogged drains and canals, a large permanent breeding ground on Crab Island and a cash-strapped Council are factors which will no doubt continue to contribute to invasions by the blood-sucking gnats.

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