Coronavirus in Mumbai: ‘Pandemic drones’ help BMC keep COVID-19 at bay in Kandivli

Putting a right use to technology, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have been successful in keeping the dreaded coronavirus at bay at a slum in suburban Mumbai's Kandivli.

Till the first week of May, the Laljipada slum area at Kandivli (West) Link road have recorded close to 50 COVID-19 positive cases. The densely populated slums, spread over an area of six kilometres houses nearly 65,000 people who are mainly daily wage workers and labourers. Most of the residents used to stay in different parts of Mumbai, throughout the week where their project have been going on and would only return home during the weekends.

As a result, when the lockdown was imposed many labourers were stuck in different parts of the city for days and it took them many days to return to their home. As the number of days progressed, the total number of COVID-19 cases also increased.

By end of April, the local ward office recorded 50 cases and finding it difficult to enforce lockdown. The areas were sealed and those living in the slums were told not to come out of the areas.

However, slums being a congested area, people would come out of their houses regularly and social distancing was not followed, it was then the R - south ward officials decided to deploy drone surveillance in the areas.

Partnered along with the local police station, the ward officials flew in drones inside the slums. The drones were fitted with high definition cameras used to manoeuvre between the lanes easily providing a clear clarity.

The BMC could clearly identify the ones those who were violating the norms and steps were taken against them. Also speakers were connected with the drones through which the ward officers used to pass messages as well.

"Initially the people were confused that what we were using with the drones. Few days passed and they got to know that we were doing surveillance on them," said a senior BMC official of RS ward.

The ward officials also went down to the slums and showed photographs of lockdown violations in the slums to the residents and gave them a strict warning as well.

It was after this incident that people stopped coming out and started to follow the social distancing norms. It has been more than fifteen days since the last COVID-19 case was reported from the slum and the residents believe it’s due to the effective usage of drones the civic officials was able to control the spread.

However, in lockdown four, there have been certain relaxations imposed on the area however the ward officials has told the local leaders to strictly adhere to social distancing guidelines and often conducts impromptu surveillances.

"There might not be any cases now; however we conduct the surveillance at times to keep the residents under check. This is a congested area and a single case won’t take much time to spread" the official stated.

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