By Jerry Francis
The Perak Government’s move to issue fines to local councils whenever Aedes breeding grounds are found in clogged drains and rubbish piles under their jurisdiction is commendable. It is about time that such action needs to be taken to ensure everyone, residents as well as local authorities, earnestly play their roles to fight the deadly dengue.
I have often raised the question as to who is to check the local authorities and fine them should they, through their own incompetency and negligence, allow Aedes mosquitoes to breed.
Therefore, the warning from State Health Committee chairman Dato’ Dr Mah Hang Soon to the local councils recently had momentary elated me. “It is up to the councils how they want to deal with their respective contractors but we will direct the problem at them and fine them because all local matters come under their jurisdiction. We are looking into the feasibility of issuing fines to local councils, which of course, we do not like to do. But in view of the seriousness of the situation, we need to think out of the box,” he said.
However, I have my doubts that the state government would seriously follow through with the warning, as Dr Mah is unlikely to “walk the talk” on the issue. Residents will continue to be the victims in the authorities’ stepped-up efforts to combat dengue. Already the fine for breeding mosquitoes has increased to RM500.
There is no doubt that many private premises are still breeding grounds for mosquitoes, judging from the 1558 fines issued in the state to owners of premises this year. The question is how many Aedes mosquitoes could those private premises breed? Some larvae were probably found in discarded pots or containers by the health inspectors while visiting the premises.
But compare these to the clogged drains and the thousands of uncollected rubbish dumps in public places throughout the state; they are just the tip of the iceberg. The clogged drains and piles of rubbish created by inefficiency and negligence of the local councils are enormous breeding grounds for Aedes’ mosquitoes. Topping these are the neglected vacant lands owned by government agencies, where various items which contain stagnant water, are found to be breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
A good example was the bases of the six ornamental concrete units right in the “front-yard” of the Ipoh City Council complex. They were filled with stagnant water and became breeding grounds for mosquitoes for quite some time.
Didn’t the city council or its health department realise it, or did not care? It was only after this column highlighted the brownish stagnant water and litter thrown in the bases of these units in March that the city council filled them up with earth and plants.
Similarly, there are still many other places that need to be looked into and action taken if the health authorities are to be successful in their combat against dengue as they pose a bigger threat than the private premises.
It has to be a combined effort. The authorities need to rein in everyone, the local councils, government agencies and residents. Blaming the residents alone for their lack of assistance and fining them are not enough. The local authorities and agencies must also be equally held responsible.
Do not just adapt a policy of “do what I tell you, and do not do what I do”. No doubt the local authorities are empowered to impose fines, but are they being fair and just when they themselves are committing the same offence?