Even as Kerala combats COVID-19, Alappuzha Municipality is facing flak for initiating a fumigation drive as part to tackle the spread of Coronavirus. The drive involves spraying the air in both health care and non-healthcare settings with disinfectants to avoid the spread of the virus. Officials recently distributed “Aparajitha Dhooma Chooranam", a powder made of Ayurvedic ingredients, free of cost to households and encouraged them to fumigated their homes with it.
Alappuzha municipal officials have claimed that burning the herbal powder and fumigating houses and surrounding areas with it would help residents prevent bacteria and virus from spreading through the air. In one of the notices which promote the fumigation plan, officials urged residents to participate in the disinfection activity as part of COVID-19 preventive measures, The News Minute reported.
The fumigation drive has earned criticism from several quarters for being unscientific and ineffective. Several reports state that the routine application of disinfectants to environmental surfaces by spraying or fogging is not recommended for Covid-19. Also, studies show that spraying as a primary disinfection strategy is ineffective in removing contaminants outside of direct spray zones.
The drive was, nevertheless, joined by Communist Party of India (CPI) member P Chithranjan. The Municipality also made an announcement about the campaign and asked residents to burn the powder to prevent virus through loudspeakers.
The fumigation drive was conducted in 50,000 houses spread across 52 wards of the Municipality. Chairperson Soumya Raj told TNM that the campaign was an “awareness program" aimed at killing germs and protecting residents from monsoon-borne diseases. “We have taken a prescription from Ayurveda district medical officer," Raj said.
Not all, however, were pleased by the drive. Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP), a people’s science movement in Kerala, has slammed the move as an ‘unscientific’ and alleged that it is an irresponsible act by the officials. Ayurvedic practitioners, however, have responded to the criticism and cited two academic papers that allegedly prove the efficacy of burning ‘Aparajitha Dhooma Chooranam" to kill microbial germs, The Hindu reported. One of the studies was published in Ancient Science of Life in 2007 while the other was carried out by a 13-member team led by a Thrissur microbiologist from the Sitaram Ayurveda Pharmacy.
KSSP activists have, however, rejected both reports as inconclusive and driven by vested interests of Ayurveda firms like Arya Vaidya Pharmacy and Sitaram Ayurveda Pharmacy.