19th May 2024 – (Hong Kong) In Hong Kong, a less glamorous battle is being waged in the streets and alleyways of residential estates and markets. It is a battle against an ancient urban foe: the rat. Despite numerous government initiatives and proclamations of victory, the reality on the ground paints a grim picture of failure and mismanagement.

Official reports often sing praises of technological advancements and strategic initiatives purportedly curbing the rodent population. Thermal imaging and nocturnal rodent control teams are among the sophisticated methods the government touts as part of its arsenal against these pests. However, these claims crumble under scrutiny, as investigative reports from various locales, including the Shun Lee Estate and surrounding markets, reveal a different story.

The scene at Lee Cheung House within the Shun Lee Estate is particularly horrific. Large rats scurry freely, a testament to the ongoing infestation that has seemingly flourished despite governmental crackdowns. Residents point to neglected heaps of refuse and poorly managed waste disposal strategies as primary culprits. Large garbage bins, left unattended and brimming with remnants, have become feasting grounds for rodents, exacerbating the problem rather than containing it.

The Housing Department and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), tasked with addressing these health concerns, appear overwhelmed or indifferent. Reports of mismanagement and reactive measures, rather than proactive strategies, dominate public discourse. The implementation of rodent baiting and other control measures often comes too late, only after media exposure pressures officials into action.

The irony is stark in the face of the FEHD’s recent updates to their rodent control indices and methodologies. These updates are perceived as mere superficial changes to a fundamentally flawed approach. The real issue lies with execution and the on-ground effectiveness of these strategies, which have failed to keep pace with the cunning and adaptability of the rodent population.

Beyond the immediate disgust and fear that rats induce, there lies a more profound concern regarding public health risks. Diseases historically associated with rodents are a constant threat that looms over the city’s residents. The psychological impact on communities, where children play in the same spaces that rats infest, cannot be overstated.

Moreover, the economic implications are significant. Property values can plummet, and local businesses, particularly food vendors, suffer reputational damage due to the proximity to these infestations. Yet, the response from the responsible departments often lacks the urgency this crisis demands.

What becomes clear is that Hong Kong’s rodent problem is as much about pest control as it is about governance. Accountability in public service, particularly in environmental hygiene and public health sectors, is crucial. The recent civil service pay trend survey, which reported a significant raise for public servants, starkly contrasts with the poor performance and lack of results from these departments.

The situation calls for a comprehensive overhaul of the city’s approach to pest control. This includes not just adopting new technologies but also ensuring that there is a consistent and accountable application of policies. The community needs to be engaged in a meaningful way to address the root causes of rodent proliferation, such as waste management and urban cleanliness.