Established on about a one-acre plot of land at Dhakeshwari road in the Lalbagh area of Old Dhaka, the old two-storey building hosts a favourable environment for mosquitos to breed
The last thing you expect to see on the premises of an office which is meant to control mosquitoes is hundreds of empty drums.
But that is exactly what they have at the Dhaka Mosquito Control Office in the Lalbagh area of Old Dhaka.
The premises are filled with hundreds of empty pesticide drums piled up haphazardly, which can be an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.
But why are these empty drums here?
The officials said the city corporations dump these drums here after they are emptied. The office has no authority to buy the drums.
"Now it has become the dumping station of empty insecticide drums. The city corporations have kept the drums of insecticide on the premises. We do not have any work to do except to maintain the drums according to the demand of the city corporations," said a supervisor of the office on condition of anonymity.
The Dhaka city corporations have been fighting a longstanding battle with mosquitos, and the Dhaka Mosquito Control Office is a relic of that frustrating history.
Founded in 1948 by the Ministry of Health as part of a programme to control a malaria outbreak, the office had initially been successful against mosquitoes. But a lack of government supervision has turned the office into a symbol of defeat in the battle against the tiny creatures.
Established on about one acre of land at the Dhakeshwari road in Lalbagh, the old two-storey building seems to host a favourable environment for mosquitos to breed.
The building, surrounded by a brick wall, has 17 rooms, most of which are locked. The staff can be seen sitting idly in and around the open rooms on the first floor as if they have nothing to do.
The officials say that 281 people are employed there at present, but only 13 of them work at the office. The rest of the employees do fieldwork for the city corporations.
Among the total manpower, 231 are spray men, 34 are supervisors and six are insect collectors.
"The office was built as part of a mosquito eradication effort in the pre-liberation period when malaria was rife in Dhaka. It was a vibrant office back then," said A N M Faizul Haque, assistant director of the Dhaka Mosquito Control Office.
"The mosquito control office is not on the right track at this moment. It should either be closed or it should be converted into a separate department. We are thinking about it," he added.
After the liberation of Bangladesh, a civil surgeon from the Ministry of Health served as an assistant director of the Mosquito Control Office. In 1972, the office had 340 officials and workers.
The department was brought under the Ministry of Local Government in 1981-82.
Subsequently, most of the employees were moved under the direct supervision of the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC), although they were being paid from the local government division.
The office is now run mainly by third or fourth-grade employees with a deputy secretary of the Local Government Division as its chief.
Last year during the dengue outbreak across the country, the Mosquito Control Office came under fire from different fronts. Experts say the office must be revitalised to control mosquitos.
"After a combined effort of different parts of the government led by the mosquito control office, malaria was eliminated from most of the districts of Bangladesh in 1984-85," said Dr Kabirul Bashar, a mosquito specialist and professor of Zoology at Jahangirnagar University.
"Now the office has become a lame unit. It's not under the proper treatment of the government. If the office isn't strong, how can it play a role?" he added.
Officials of the local government division say they are trying to make the Mosquito Control Office more effective.
Helal Uddin Ahmed, senior secretary of the Local Government Division, said, "We are working to make the Dhaka Mosquito Control Office more effective. The issue is related to the finance ministry and the ministry of public administration."