Tiny houses wedged between small shops along canal banks and railway lines are common urban sights. Few of us actually visit such dwellings to see whether they are fit for human occupation.
ecisions are made daily to improve the quality of life for city dwellers, but no real positive change seems to happen.
We who live near these shanties hear loud complaints. Unfortunately, the complaints are not loud enough to be heard by those who make the decisions.
Unplanned cities easily generate rats and cockroaches and other disease-carrying organisms. Shanty-dwellers in the heart of Colombo city live close to drains and suffer daily from the presence of rats. Often, the rats are accustomed to humans and fearlessly hang around in the vicinity of kitchens. Rats are seen running along the drains. At night, people are afraid to step out of their houses because of the rats in the passageways.
All this sounds like a horror film, but it is true. Rats cause diseases, including rat bite fever and leptospirosis.
Similarly, cockroaches are seen in large numbers along the canals. People living along canal banks are told not to throw garbage into the canal, but they continue to do so. This has led to the breeding of both cockroaches and mosquitoes. Cockroaches carry germs that result in dysentery and gastro-enteritis.
The children who live in these shanties are exposed to diseases spread by rats and cockroaches. It is time our Medical Health Officers and Public Health Inspectors worked with these communities to prevent the spread of these disease-carrying creatures.
Dr. (Mrs) Ajantha Perera