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Fogging’s dark truth

Civil Society News, New Delhi

As dengue and chikungunya cases flooded hospitals in New Delhi, a fogging blitz was unleashed on the capital city’s slums and poor neighbourhoods in a belated attempt to contain the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Fogging machines mounted on cycles spewed smoke in crowded bylanes, engulfing residents, among them children. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government deployed 100 machines and promised several hundred more.

But was fogging really the answer or was it just a display of government action after an epidemic of vector-borne diseases had overtaken the city? What did the fog contain and should it have been unleashed from close quarters on residents without an advisory?

The fog contained chemical pesticides and diesel — both carcinogenic in the long term and hardly the things people should have been breathing in. Fogging also causes breathing problems and triggers asthma attacks. It irritates the eyes.

Public health specialists have called indiscriminate fogging a health hazard. At best it can be an emergency measure targetted at specific locations where mosquitoes need to be contained. The impact on mosquitoes is transitory, knocking them out for a bit, but not killing them. Much more damage is done to human beings inhaling the noxious fumes.

But Delhi’s residents seemed to be trapped in a political crossfire with the AAP-run state government out to discredit BJP-run municipalities. The annual drive to stop mosquito breeding didn’t seem to have been done. There has also been a mounting garbage problem.

New Delhi already has the dubious distinction of being among the world’s most polluted cities. It is common to use firewood for cooking in slums. Virtually nothing has been done to improve living conditions in slums though much has been promised at election time. Fogging in such conditions is doubly harmful to health. 

“It is much more important to ...

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