Updated: 04/02/2013 07:28

Government will consider raising fines for those found breeing mosquitoes in homes

Government will consider raising fines for those found breeing mosquitoes in homes

by Olivia Siong

Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan says he will consider raising the fines for those found breeding mosquitoes in their homes.

But he stressed this cannot be the primary tool to handle the current dengue epidemic.

Dr Balakrishnan was responding to a suggestion raised by a participant at the inaugural Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) Partners Forum.

Some 200 people attended the forum.

They included Internal staff from "the MEWR family" and other representatives from the Ministry's external partners.

There have been more than 3,000 (3122) dengue cases in the first three months of this year.

A significant jump from the close to 780 cases in the same period last year.

70 per cent of mosquito breeding sites in clusters were found in homes.

So, there was one suggestion from one forum participant, Retiree Tony Lee, to counter this trend:

"Dengue fever is not only a very serious illness. But also deadly. More deadly than deterring smoking. But why did NEA still not increase the fine as a deterrence? You know Singaporeans will always obey the laws with what hurts their pockets."

At the moment, homeowners found to be breeding mosquitoes in an area where there is a dengue cluster are fined $200.

Recalcitrant offenders face fines not exceeding 5000 dollars and, or imprisonment not exceeding three months.

And while Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said raising fines are something he will consider.

It's also something he will not rush into:

"Being punitive is not the first step, taking responsibility for areas in your own home, in your own workplace, or in your own neighbourhood, we need that kind of co-operation, that kind of commitment. I don't want you to be afraid of a fine, I want you to be afraid of dengue and the impact it can have on your life and those of your loved ones and I want you to act out of a sense of responsibility and concern for human life. That's the motivation that we need. Fines are just one other tool. It cannot be the primary tool in which we handle this epidemic."

It's this same responsibility that needs to be shared by all who want a clean Singapore.

An issue that drew some "out-of-the-box" ideas from forum participants.

One participant, Group CEO of Alexandra Health, Liak Teng Lit said maybe having cleaners clean less, could be a solution:

"Singapore is no longer clean, we are cleaned. C-L-E-A-N-E-D. We have 70,000 cleaners you know, that I believe is twice the regular Singapore army. Maybe the government should do a bit less. I think town councils should not be cleaning two, three times a day. Maybe you should clean at most once a day and hopefully maybe once a week you should stop cleaning, so that at least people are conscious of the fact how bad the people are behaving."

Second Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Grace Fu, also shared some suggestions:

"It's really not very effective for a group or army of uniformed officers going around and enforcing. The ideal in my mind really would be a lot more ground up enforcement, and self-enforcement, the use of technology, the use of CCTV and smartphone applications."

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said while this is the first partners forum the Ministry is holding, it will not be the last.

He said such platforms will be useful in helping to shape the direction of policies in the future.

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