Thursday, 25 February 2016

NEA to step up efforts to tackle rat problem amid rising complaints

Agency received more complaints last year than in 2014, amid greater public concern
By Chitra Kumar, The Straits Times, 24 Feb 2016

Singapore's rat problem is showing no signs of letting up.

About 6,700 complaints were received by the National Environment Agency (NEA) last year, up from around 4,000 in 2014.

The number of food outlet inspections also rose from around 140,000 in 2014 to about 148,000 last year, while enforcement actions were taken against over 190 owners, up from 80.

The NEA, which revealed the figures this week, plans to boost efforts to treat detected rat burrows, including those that fall under the responsibility of other agencies.

Other measures are also being considered, though no details have been given.

The public has been growing increasingly concerned about the rodent problem since a rat infestation near Bukit Batok MRT station in December 2014 and the discovery of a dead rat in a vegetable dish at a Chinese restaurant in Marina Square just over a year ago.

Star Control Pest saw its rat-control work increase by 25 per cent last year.

Its general manager Bernard Chan, 46, told The Straits Times: "In the past, when people and businesses talked about rats, they showed less concern.

"The Bukit Batok incident drew a lot of attention. Our customers are now showing more concern, especially after that Bukit Batok incident and the one at Marina Square."


The NEA said about 85 per cent of rat burrows were found in housing estates with the rest in areas such as private land, buildings and food shops.

The authority said that it provides advice and support to town councils on rat control measures.

As part of its revised Rat Attack programme, the agency gave funding to town councils where the focus was shifted from treating rodent burrows to culling rodents in bin centres and bin chutes which provide their food sources.

The Straits Times understands only two town councils have not opted into the revised programme - Marine Parade Town Council (MPTC) and Jurong-Clementi Town Council.

Acting public relations manager for MPTC Tan You Yi said its current pest control contract, which started in January 2014, will finish at the end of this year.

She added that it opted out of the revised programme because "the funding requirements were different from the contract specifications spelt out in our contract".

Jurong-Clementi Town Council said it has customised its own Rat Attack programme.

Measures include weekly inspections of bin centres, markets, hawker centres and food establishments, as well as fortnightly inspections of other common areas.

Marina Square says rat problem 'under control'
By Chitra Kumar, The Straits Times, 24 Feb 2016

Marina Square has stepped up its pest control measures after a dead rat was found in a dish at a buffet restaurant in January last year.

Explaining that the rat problem is "under control", Marina Centre Holdings general manager Chan Yien Mei said daily inspections are now conducted by three pest control technicians - up from two previously.

A team from a second pest company has also been hired.

Rodent flushing, in which the rat traps are increased to catch more pests, is now a weekly exercise, instead of fortnightly. The mall operator also plans to increase the number of electronic sensors, installed in the ceilings to detect the movement of rats, from 300 to about 600 by June this year.

The mall, however, is locked in legal battles with tenants over rental arrears as well as possible suits over business lost, allegedly because of the rat issue.

Since the incident last January, at least five food and beverage outlets in the mall, including Saigon Baguette, have closed down.

At stake is the question of responsibility for the upkeep of areas that had been leased by tenants.

Marina Square is claiming damages from the management of eateries Pita Pan and Lady M, two of its former tenants, for rental arrears. The Straits Times understands that Marina Square and Saigon Times, which runs Saigon Baguette eatery, also have an outstanding rental dispute.

Earlier this month, Saigon Times was reported to be claiming damages from the mall and eight other tenants. But Ms Chan yesterday told The Straits Times that it has not received a writ from the company.

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