Saturday, 16 June 2007

All Out Mozzie Warfare

It's Dengue Fever season again and the full might of the Singaporean bureaucracy is being applied to the problem. It's a nasty disease; potentially fatal, infectious with no current vaccine and is spread by mosquito bite. This year, the number of cases shows an alarming rise with 200 new cases per week.

The basic plan, codename If They Breed, You Will Bleed, is a war of attrition by reducing the number of possible breeding places for mosquitos plus a concerted round of fogging (insecticide smoke blown into drains, rubbish chutes, under buildings, etc).

Mosquitos lay their eggs in stagnant water so any pool or standing puddle is a potential menace. Hence the campaign based on the 10-minute Mozzie Wipe-Out to be performed around the house daily. Basically, empty out flower vases and buckets, cover the outside laundry pole pipes and clear out any blocked gutters.

The laundry pipes takes a moment to explain and is an unusual example of lack of joined-up thinking in the design of HDB flats. To hang out laundry, the flats have hollow tubes buried in the outside walls below the kitchen windows to hold bamboo laundry poles which stick out, away from the building. The problem is that the hollow tubes collect rain water and are then a major mosquito hazard. The solution is very low tech, just put a rain cap on but it's a manual action, prone to neglect, and they can get dislodged by the wind. The council even have a bamboo-pole-cap inspector touring the flats (he could do this from the ground but he seemed to want to come inside anyway?).

For me the biggest threat is to one of the most impressive plants seen around Singapore, the Fan Palm tree which is out of favour with the authorities because water collects at the base of the leaves.