SINGAPORE - To root out and prevent rat infestations in housing estates, the National Environment Agency (NEA) will provide more help to town councils, said Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu on Thursday.
It will advice town councils on the hiring of pest control operators to eliminate rodents living in bin centres and refuse chutes, and on the maintenance and management of these areas to cut off access to food sources for rats.
This is on top of an existing Rat Attack Programme started in 2005, which requires town councils to "pro-actively detect rodent activity and reduce the rodent population", she said.
Giving an update about the rodent situation in Singapore in response to a parliamentary question from Dr Teo Ho Pin (Bukit Panjang), Ms Fu said they are necessary as "rodents have adapted well to our urban environment and multiply quickly in poorly managed or maintained bin centres and refuse chutes".
Food left behind by those feeding birds and stray cats and dogs had also contributed to the problem, she added.
Last year, the NEA received 4,000 reports of rodent sightings, 1,000 higher than the year before.
In the same year, it conducted more than 140,000 inspections, in a pre-emptive move against rat infestation, said Ms Fu.
Since 2011, it has been conducting these systematic inspections of public areas to identify potential food sources, areas where rats may hide, and burrowing activity.
Ms Fu added that the NEA regularly inspects food outlets and shopping malls as well to make sure they have taken measures to guard against rat infestations.
The food outlets that have not kept their premises free of rodents are taken to task, with their licenses suspended or revoked and their food hygiene grading downgraded.
Where necessary, said Ms Fu, the NEA also directs malls to carry out structural improvements, to rodent-proof their premises.
In 2014 the agency took enforcement action against 82 errant premises owners for rodent infestation.
She added that it is an offence to feed strays and birds and leave food behind "causing a hygiene problem", and action can be taken against those who do so.
"Ultimately, it is the responsibility of all stakeholders, including land owners, building management and food shop operators, to put in place a good system of housekeeping, refuse management and routine pest control checks and treatment to ensure that the rodent population is kept under control," she said.