Investigating officers appointed by the Ministry of Health will soon be legally entitled to enter private properties, without permission, in order to conduct surveys relating to mosquito-breeding neighbourhoods. Their notes will be valid as evidence in court, should the owners of any private premises have to face charges under the Prevention of Mosquito Breeding Act. Amendments to the Act will shortly come into effect.
At present, the law is inadequate to deal with such situations, with the result that the majority of court cases relating to mosquito breeding due to the negligence of private property owners are dismissed, according to Health Ministry spokesperson W. M. D. Wanninayake. “The amendments will allow us to present photographs as evidence in court,” he said.
So far this year, 4,472 cases of dengue have been reported islandwide, with 39 deaths.
Under the Act, officers who identify a breeding place for mosquitoes will give the owner two weeks to clean up his premises; if after two weeks the premises remain in their original state or have not been satisfactorily cleaned up, legal action will follow, and the owners will be ordered to pay a fine.
Mr. Wanninayake said the procedure takes about two months. Pointing out that a mosquito’s life span is one week, he said the time taken to clear a breeding spot and mete out justice to offenders would be sufficient to allow eight generations of mosquitoes to breed.
“The Act therefore has to be amended to give investigating officers powers to impose fines on offenders. The fine would not exceed Rs. 2,000.”