Singapore – City of Dengue

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Orchard Road pedestrians

By Elias Tan

Orchard Road pedestriansClean and green Singapore has a new name: City of Dengue.

The deadly mosquito-transmitted disease has claimed its seventh victim this year – a 53-year-old woman who died from dengue on Saturday, 15 November, 2013 – and is showing no signs of abating. Even Orchard Road, the city’s most popular shopping belt, and Somerset are not spared the fever.

While this is attributed to a sudden spike in temperature conditions and weaker immunity against the dengue Type One virus, the lack of coordination in dealing with mosquito breeding sites between the National Environment Agency (NEA) and town councils coupled with poor upkeeping is, unfortunately, a recipe for disaster.

Additionally, drains clogged with fallen dead leaves, branches, twigs and trash tend to collect stagnant water, thereby creating potential mosquito breeding spots. The sudden climate change makes matters worse.

This brings up the issue of outsourcing of cleaning services. Back in the ’90s, NEA used to have an army of dedicated cleaners who would put away garbage from the drains, streets, parks and back alleys from morning to night, every day.

Fast forward to today where everything, including cleaning services, is outsourced from town councils to vendors with the lowest bid. More often than not, the vendor with the lowest bid tends to cut corners due to cost constraints. Well, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys…in this case, mosquitoes.

Says Nee Soon GRC resident Ivan Seah: “Our cleaners don’t sweep the floor and clear clogged drains like they used to before – sometimes, they clean once a week!” ks.

Sure, the Environment Ministry has plenty of work to do if it wants to bring down the number of dengue fever cases and keep Singapore neat and clean. But that does not mean Singaporeans should cut themselves some slack and do nothing.

What needs to be done is to encourage people, as a community, to practise social responsibility so that more people will come forward to help spruce up the environment and keep it litter-free. Instead of focusing too much on individual responsibilities, why not shift the focus to the entire community?

What is clear is that a new battle plan is needed. Is anybody listening?