Thursday, 21 August 2014

From Fishball Stick, Fallen tree, Bird nuisance to Leaves in drain

First a fishball stick, now a fallen tree branch
The issue bears similarities to an incident highlighted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Aug 17) at the National Day Rally. Mr Lee described a situation where a fishball stick on the ground was not cleared for about two days, in part due to confusion over which authority was in charge of cleaning the area

Having a call centre dedicated to receiving public feedback on municipal issues could help different agencies respond more quickly - this is an idea one member of the public hopes will be incorporated in the recently announced Municipal Services Office.

Business development manager Gary Haris spoke to Channel NewsAsia about the frustrations he faced over a fallen tree branch on a grass patch along MacKenzie Road, which we understand had been lying there for at least a month and a half.

About a month ago, Mr Haris said he informed the National Parks Board (NParks) about the fallen branch. Sometime last week, NParks informed him that the area is managed by the Istana.


The fishball stick-ing point and the new Municipal Services Office
A complaint by one of her residents led South West District Mayor Low Yen Ling to discover the difficulty of bridging certain inter-agency boundaries. The resident claimed that the walkway towards Bukit Gombak station was often dirty, adding that a discarded fishball stick remained uncleared for two consecutive days

The mayor said that despite the size of the area, it took several calls to different government agencies to establish what happened, and to finally resolve the issue, as the area was managed by the National Environment Agency, the National Parks Board and the Land Transport Authority. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shared this story at the National Day Rally on Sunday (Aug 17), and said it illustrated the need for a Municipal Services Office (MSO).

"The setting up of the MSO is a very timely move, because it will address the need for a common platform to bridge inter-agency boundaries in a very integrated manner. And I welcome the move in setting up of the MSO, which I hope will also address areas which fall into the gap of 'every man's island, but no agency's responsibility'," said Ms Low.

"There will be areas where responsibility overlaps across different Government agencies, so the role of the MSO will be very critical. And I think moving forward with the formation of the MSO, we look forward to better coordination, quicker response and improved ability to provide sustainable solutions for residents," she continued.


NEA, AVA to handle all complaints on bird nuisance
The public can now channel all complaints on bird nuisance — whether it’s crows, pigeons or mynahs — to the National Environment Agency or the Agri—Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore

The Ministry of National Development (MND) cleared the air in a Facebook posting on Friday. This, after MediaCorp reported last month that it was tough pinning down the relevant authorities in charge of mynahs.

A coffeeshop in Bishan, which saw mynahs flocking to its premises, had complained to the two agencies but was told that they do not handle mynahs.

NEA takes care of crows, while AVA handles pigeons.

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Different birds, different gahmen department

Crows? Call NEA.
Pigeons? Call AVA.
Mynahs? Both say not their problem.
Bloody 鸟 excuses.We need a Ministry of Birds then. Then we can activate the 鸟人。
不同的鸟说不同的“鸟话”。

CNA: Who's in charge of bird nuisance?: Birds continue to be a source of problem in areas of dense population in Singapore but as Channel NewsAsia finds out, it's been a challenge pinning down the relevant authorities in charge of the problem.

Crows come under the purview of the National Environment Agency (NEA) while the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) handles complaints of nuisance with pigeons. But it gets a little complicated when it comes to mynahs.

When Channel NewsAsia visited a coffee shop at Bishan Street 11, mynahs were seen picking at leftovers. Stall holders said the number of mynahs in their coffee shop has more than doubled in the past two years. And when they approached the NEA and AVA, both agencies said they are not in charge of handling the birds. Both the NEA and AVA confirmed this with Channel NewsAsia.

Authorities bird-brained over crows, pigeons and mynahs

From ‘Who’s in charge of bird nuisance?’, 27 Dec 2011, article by Ng Puay Leng, Today online
  • Birds continue to be a source of problem in areas of dense population in Singapore but as Channel NewsAsia finds out, it’s been a challenge pinning down the relevant authorities in charge of the problem. Crows come under the purview of the National Environment Agency (NEA) while the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) handles complaints of nuisance with pigeons.
  • But it gets a little complicated when it comes to mynahs. When Channel NewsAsia visited a coffee shop at Bishan Street 11, mynahs were seen picking at leftovers. Stall holders said the number of mynahs in their coffee shop has more than doubled in the past two years.
  • And when they approached the NEA and AVA, both agencies said they are not in charge of handling the birds.
Before the NEA or AVA started pushing bird problems to one another, we had the Primary Production Department (PPD), which was responsible for exterminating all nuisance birds (crows, pigeons, mynahs). In 1979, one crow culling job was contracted to the SAF, with tragi-comic results as two bystanders were shot in the face and leg respectively by stray pellets. In the 1980s, the PPD used water jets to hose down mynahs, which didn’t kill them so much as scatter them and stop them from tweeting. Even members of the SINGAPORE GUN CLUB were roped in (and still are today) to shoot crows in nests or flying over rooftops when they’re not training for events like ‘Olympic trap’ and ‘skeet’, simply because the authorities wanted sharpshooters for the dirty work but couldn’t trust the SAF based on past experience.

In 2003, a crow-culling scandal ruffled the feathers of the NEA when a former national shooter from the club cheated the authority by collecting multiple rewards ($5 per dead bird) using the same carcass (which goes to show how well our shooters were paid at the time). Futile, mercenary, cruel, dangerous and wasteful methods of pest control aside, at least we knew who to call in the past, whether it’s a complaint of bird droppings, relentless squawking or swooping Angry Bird-like attacks on innocent pedestrians.

In 2000, the PPD morphed into the stat board we know today as AVA, which means the crow problem was relinquished and pushed to the NEA for some reason. Are crows greater ‘noise pollutants’ than pigeons or mynahs hence qualifying them under NEA’s purview, and are pigeons more likely to spread diseases like avian flu through droppings hence remained under AVA? Not really.


Curious mynahs scaring off cowardly hawk

No surprise that neither NEA nor AVA was mentioned in this article, with the writer using the annoyingly vague ‘the authorities’, since none of these agencies actually want to take charge of mynahs. Pigeons (AVA) and crows (NEA) yes, but nobody wants their hands full with these rascally birds. In 2008, the NEA did shoot down some crows, but seemingly left most of the mynahs alone since these birds are not ‘in their purview’.

Maybe the selective extermination of a bigger ‘competitor’ bird boosted up mynah numbers and made them more fearless since. So what do Orchard Road tenants do then if the authorities have gone cuckoo over pest control? Take matters into their own hands, of course. By hiring a Jurong Bird Park veteran who trains hawks more for entertainment than stalking and eating smaller nuisance birds. You wouldn’t hire Sylvester the Cat to catch Tweety Bird would you?

You can’t blame the hawk or its handler really. Not only is the force of 5000 mynahs too much to bear, but having led a good life in captivity as a pet, mascot or performer for the Bird park, you would have no incentive to hunt down an unruly flock of squawking, pooping mynahs. You would rather put on a ‘King of the Skies’ show and awe little children with your gliding prowess and extend your lethal talons ready to strike like you’re plucking a python out of a bush, even if you’ve done nothing with them other than clutching for dear life to some falconer dressed like Mulan.

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More complaints about pigeons after AVA pilot
Authority says rise could be due to higher awareness of its role as one-stop agency for animal-related feedback

The birds in Housing and Development Board heartlands appear to have ruffled more than a few feathers of late. Not only has the number of pigeon-related complaints to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) doubled over the past two years, the number of people fined for feeding pigeons in the first six months of this year has also surpassed that in the whole of 2012. As of June, 17 people have been fined, compared to 16 last year. The penalty for those found guilty of feeding pigeons can be up to S$500.

Pigeon-related calls have also increased exponentially over the past three years, with 1,072 cases reported between January and June — almost reaching the 1,415 calls received for the whole of last year. This is compared to the 612 calls the AVA received in 2011, which pertained mainly to animal sightings and nuisances.

Dog-related calls dominated the total number of cases so far this year at 2,346 cases, continuing a trend from the past three years. Calls related to animals such as bats, wild boars and monitor lizards ranked second at 1,270 cases, while cat-related reports came in third at 1,239 cases.


AVA will coordinate efforts when bird nuisance arises
During Monday's Parliament sitting, Mr Yee Jenn Jong asked the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources about the handling of problems related to birds

He asked why the issue of crows came under the purview of the National Environment Agency (NEA) while nuisance with pigeons was handled by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and complaints about mynahs are handled by neither agency.

He also wanted to know whether there is a plan for a single agency to handle problems related to birds.

In response, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said that the management of bird nuisance requires action from several different agencies.


Who is the biggest mosquito breeder in Singapore?
Let’s look at his latest problem with NEA. He’s living in the Kovan area in a landed property. On 8 Jan, He got a memo from NEA accusing him of breeding mosquitoes on his dust bin which is supplied by SemCorp. The typical green color plastic dust bin placed outside each house. The dust bin was inverted. NEA claimed that there was mosquito breeding when it’s invereted – presumably at the perimeter of the dust bin cover where water is collected. Recently, he got another memo instructing him to attend court or pay a fine. He is jumping furious mad now.

Caveman says that he did not buy the dust bin. It’s supplied by SemCorp. He’s paying the monthly conservancy charge for it. If it breeds mosquitoes when it’s inverted, whose fault? To invert the dust bin is to prevent mosquito breeding and if it doesn’t then whose fault? Obviously, there is a design defect in the product which he should not be held accountable says he. What about if it is in normal position where rubbish is collected? Will it breed mosquitoes also?

From his description, I find it rather amusing. Now caveman is saying that no wonder Singapore has got mosquitoes all over the place cuz of the design defect on those SembCorp bins distributed to households. NEA is targeting at innocent households as scapegoats which he feels is very unfair! Instead of looking at the design defect and whacking SembCorp, they are taking the soft option of targeting innocent residents. NEA simply throw summons to helpless households threatening them either to pay up or go to court. They are typical civil servants bullying innocent helpless residents. Those sitting up there with fat salaries are always clever at looking for soft targets. Caveman was suggesting that perhaps holes need to drill on them to prevent water retention but they did not bother to investigate and solve the problem. Just issue summons and hopefully the problem ends there.


Authorities in a muddle over leaves in drain

From ‘Who should clear leaves in drain?’ 21 March 2014, ST Forum (Arthur Lim):
  • THE ineffective clearing of fallen leaves is not just evident along major roads and expressways (“Act promptly to clear fallen leaves” by Dr V. Subramaniam; Tuesday), but also in housing estates. In my estate, the leaves seem to be frequently cleared from areas visible to the eye, but those that are “hidden” under the covered portions of drains are not. This may cause pooling of water and mosquito breeding.
  • I have raised this issue with the officers who check for mosquito breeding in my estate, but they said their department was not in charge of this. They were not sure if it should come under the National Environment Agency or the PUB.
  • I hope the relevant authorities will step in to address this issue.
This confusion over who’s in charge of dengue-breeding ‘longkangs’ has existed for at least a decade. In 2005, if the affected drain is in a Housing Board precinct, the town council is responsible. If it’s by the road in a residential estate, either the NEA or PUB is in charge. If it’s in a public park, then NParks needs to pick up the trash. Filthy drains are like the NEA/AVA tussling over mynahs; nobody wants to claim them, like separated parents each refusing custody over an obnoxious child. Even the source of the leaves, the very trees that line our roads, have different agencies looking after them, NParks or the SLA. Good luck blaming either for negligence when a loose branch falls and knocks you into a month-long coma, which is probably the duration of time needed for someone to finally admit that he’s responsible.

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Humour: Otak-otak man is my wife's fishball stick

After hearing about the unlawful otak-otak man, the woman at the town council told my wife to call the police.

That was when my wife lost it. She said she had already called the police who told her to call the town council. And now the town council wanted her to call the police? Relenting, the woman at the town council said she would send someone over (most likely not Wong), but also told my wife to contact the National Environment Agency (NEA).

So for one errant otak-otak seller, my wife was told to contact three different government agencies.


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