Appeal to all: Help get rid of rats and mozzies

NEA taking action but stakeholders must do their part, says Grace Fu

The ratty problem outside the Bukit Batok MRT station is indicative of a nuisance that plagues many parts of Singapore.

In the first 11 months of last year, more than 35,000 rodent burrows were found across the island and their inhabitants annihilated by the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The agency has also put more officers on the ground in recent years to make sure food shops abide by good hygiene practices and do not feed the problem.

The intensified effort to choke off any infestation was disclosed in Parliament yesterday by Ms Grace Fu, Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources.

In recent months, several places in Singapore had suffered rat colonies. The most notorious one was outside the Bukit Batok MRT station. Videos posted online show a slope the size of a football field infested with rats.

Ratbusters were called in and they killed more than 300 rodents in a two-week campaign last month.

But killing the horrid creatures will not wipe out the problem unless people practise good housekeeping, including managing their food waste properly, said Ms Fu, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

"The key to rodent control is to eliminate food sources...We need all stakeholders, from food-stall and restaurant operators to companies that are in charge of cleaning, to really step up and ensure we have a hygienic and clean environment," she said.

Dengue is another scourge Ms Fu urged people to help get rid of.

Although the number of breeding sites found has declined, the problem persists.

Between January and November last year, more than 16,000 breeding sites were uncovered, a 19 per cent annual drop.

A new gravitrap surveillance programme that the NEA introduced in dengue clusters and high-risk areas has caught about 32,000 mosquitoes since it was put on trial last year.

"This is the first year we have such statistics, so we will probably use this as a basis for studies going forward," Ms Fu said.

The NEA is also exploring the possibility of reducing the local dengue-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito population through biological means, she said, citing the Wolbachia bacteria-carrying male mosquitoes.

When they mate with female mosquitoes, the latter produce eggs that do not hatch.

Meanwhile, Ms Fu urged all home and premises owners, town councils and managers of public areas to take responsibility for ensuring there is no room for the mosquitoes to breed.

She said: "NEA's officers cannot be everywhere, any time, all the time."

zengkun@sph.com.sg