New Delhi: Stray dogs - over 280,000 of them - have a free run of Delhi's streets. With 15-20 dog bites reported every day, sterilisation campaigns by the civic agency don't seem to have borne fruit even as the Commonwealth Games are approaching.
Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) officials feel a long-pending proposal to set up 10 dog sterilisation centres in the city should be implemented fast.
'With the October Commonwealth Games around the corner, we want to do away with the problem of stray dogs. There are over 280,000 stray dogs in the city,' a senior MCD official told IANS, requesting anonymity.
'We do not have a sufficient number of centres to treat or vaccinate them. And not enough NGOs are working in the area,' he added.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 36 percent of the world's rabies deaths occur in India each year, and that too mostly when children come into contact with infected dogs.
R.B.S. Tyagi, MCD veterinary services director, claimed, 'The corporation is taking effective measures to sterilise stray dogs. The proposed sterilisation centres in the city will take a year to be constructed. The centres were finalised three months ago.'
The civic body has been running the task of sterilisation of dogs with the help of various NGOs since 2003. Nine of them were roped in for the purpose.
An MCD official said: 'We have been running dog sterilisation campaigns with the help of NGOs since 2003, but they have not yielded satisfactory results.
'Therefore, the corporation decided to open centres for sterilisation of dogs where anyone can bring in their dogs for treatment. But the proposal has been stagnant,' he added.
The MCD official said the corporation allots around Rs.2 crore in its budget every year for curbing the stray dog menace.
The cost of sterilisation per dog paid to NGOs is Rs.445, which is borne equally by the MCD and the Animal Welfare Board of India.
Gautam Barat, co-founder of the NGO Frendicoes (Society for the Eradication of Cruelty to Animals), said: 'We have been associated with the civic body on the sterilisation of dogs. In a month we sterilise about 900 dogs.'
'Even though we have doctors and other facilities and are capable of sterilising 600 more dogs, we lack additional space. We have been demanding space from the corporation for over three years, but they have paid no heed to our demand,' he added.
According to a 2009 survey by the corporation, the ratio of male to female population of dogs is 51:49. The overall density of stray dogs in Delhi is five dogs per sq km.
In the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) area, it is three animals per sq km and in the Cantonment area it is 10 animals per sq km.
The density is highest in the city zone (10 animals per sq km) followed by Narela (7.7 animal per sq km) and Rohini zone (5.8 animals per sq km). The lowest density is in Shahdara (North) zone - only three dogs per sq km.
As many as 27,199 dogs were sterilised in 2007-08. In 2008-09, the count of sterilised dogs was 31,959 and in 2009-10 it was 37,397, according to the Society for Stray Canine Birth Control (SSCBC).
Though the number of sterilised dogs are on the rise in Delhi, the number of stray dogs also keeps increasing at an alarming pace, a veterinary doctor in SSCBC told IANS.
(Prathiba Raju can be contacted at email@example.com)