Solving an Invisible Problem
It is often the things we can’t see that create the biggest problems. One of the newest and most remarkable LEAD projects is reducing one such problem and is hoping to one day deal with it on a national level. The problem is the Dengue fever. According to the World Health Organization,” Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection causing a severe flu-like illness and, sometimes causing a potentially lethal complication called severe dengue”. Nithish Bhat and Prem Mole are both engineering students at Jain College of Engineering in Belgaum and are enrolled as LEADers in the LEAD Program. Along with almost 40 other LEADers from the same college, Nithish and Prem with the support of LEAD are combatting the Dengue problem in Belgaum by using a fogger to kill the mosquitos.
This fogging project was inspired by a similar project by a LEADer in Hubballi. Known as Fogman, Immanuel Pathare realized the problem of Dengue in his community and decided to use a fogging machine to the kill the disease carriers. The cost of the machine was funded by LEAD and, with the hard work and passion of Immanuel, the project has been extremely successful. In a similar way, Nithish and Prem noticed the problem of mosquitos in villages surrounding Belgaum and believed they could do something about it. They proposed their idea to the LEAD staff and received approval for the project.
The project was started in October 2018 and has grown into 7 teams made up of 5-6 people. Each team was responsible for a different region or village. Although it was not easy at first, the teams have built good relationships with the local authorities and people. Nithish and Prem explained that the hardest part of the project so far has been convincing the local authorities to grant the project permission to complete the fogging process. Not only are the authorities and people from the villages skeptical about the purpose and effectiveness of the fogging itself, they are reluctant to fund the materials needed. The fogging machine uses a chemical to kill the mosquitos and runs on petrol. One container of chemicals costs 6,000 rupees and one liter of fuel is 70 rupees. These materials will last for about 400 houses in a village. Each region needs to be fogged every 6 months. At the moment, 60% of the material costs are funded by the authorities and 40% by LEAD itself.
One of the ongoing challenges facing the project is creating awareness of how to deal with the root problem of the mosquitos. Mosquitos breed in stagnant water and, therefore, reducing stagnant water will reduce the number of mosquitos. Nithish and Prem explained that people in the villages often throw away their garbage in the streets and ditches. This causes the drains to clog and creates stagnant water. The team has made some progress toward creating awareness of the dangers of stagnant water. However, they are finding it hard to get people to change their old ways. Nithish and Prem plan to continue raising awareness by growing the project team and strengthening their connections with local authorities, who are respected in their communities.
Nithish and Prem explained that recruiting more LEADers for the team will be one of the most challenging but important requirement for expansion to other locations in Belgaum, Karnataka, and even the whole of India. All the current team members have been recruited from Jain College of Engineering through LEAD. Convincing people to join is not always easy but since the work is unpaid and completed early in the morning or in the evening (when the mosquitos come out). However, Nithish and Prem feel they can convince more students to join the project by presenting LEAD’s positive environment, opportunity to make many friends, and the collaborative environment. Prem believes that being part of a LEAD project not only gives LEADers the opportunity to help society, it also develops the LEADers themselves and they become better people because of it. In the future, Prem hopes he can connect his experience with the fogging project and his engineering education and career to create things that are good for people and the environment.
Creating a better world sometimes involves seeing the invisible. Problems can be difficult to see and more difficult to solve. It is important to take the time to notice the small things because even complicated problems can have simple solution. With help of organizations such as LEAD, hard work, and a passion for creating positive change, anyone can create solutions to the world’s problems.