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Pandan Reservoir midge outbreak: Residents liken it to a 'horror movie', says Member of Parliament

SINGAPORE — Residents living around the Pandan Reservoir said that the recent outbreak of midges in the area is like being “in a horror movie”, Member of Parliament (MP) Foo Mee Har said on Monday (Sept 2).

Pandan Reservoir midge outbreak: Residents liken it to a 'horror movie', says Member of Parliament

Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, noted in Parliament that while steps can be taken to mitigate the outbreak affecting residents near Pandan Reservoir (pictured), midges are part of the natural cycle.

SINGAPORE — Residents living around the Pandan Reservoir said that the recent outbreak of midges in the area is like being “in a horror movie”, Member of Parliament (MP) Foo Mee Har said on Monday (Sept 2).

Describing it as the “most severe” outbreak that residents have witnessed, Ms Foo, MP for the West Coast Group Representative Constituency (GRC), added that the midges stick to clothes and hair, and residents have found swarms of them in corridors, lifts, bus stops and in their homes.

Responding to questions from three MPs, including Ms Foo, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said that the sudden spike in midge activity can be attributed to the recent spell of unusually hot weather, which has hastened the growth process of the midges.

“With climate change, we will experience more extreme weather, which will have a corresponding response from nature,” he said.

Residents complain that the midge outbreak is the worst they have seen. Photo: Raj Nadarajan/TODAY

Mr Masagos noted that the midges do not bite or spread disease. Outbreaks since the late 1970s had lasted for as little as two weeks, or as long as five months.

He added that national water agency PUB has implemented several measures to mitigate the impact of midges on the residents living around the reservoir since the outbreak began in the middle of July.

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For instance, PUB has increased the frequency and dosage of the application of biological liquid larvicide in the reservoirs to help eliminate midge larvae. It has also increased the frequency of fogging and misting around the reservoir dyke and surrounding vegetation to kill adult midges.

These methods have been proven to be effective at killing midges at the relevant stages of their life cycle, Mr Masagos said.

PUB has also installed bright spotlights at the Pandan Reservoir's pumping station and switched them on at night to attract adult midges towards the reservoir and away from residents’ homes.

The agency will continue to monitor for midge emergence at reservoirs and conduct frequent checks for larvae in samples of reservoir sediments or for adult midges trapped around the reservoir vicinity, he said.

Swarms of midges have been seen around Pandan Reservoir since mid-July, and have entered nearby homes. Photo: Raj Nadarajan/TODAY

The dominant midge in the present outbreak is a rare one, unlike an outbreak at the reservoir in 2016, he said. This species hides in drains and culverts in the day and swarms above the drains in the evening.

To tackle this, PUB has rolled out more measures to alleviate the issue, such as greasing the drain walls to trap the midges when they land, he said.

SCREENS AND NETS

In a supplementary question, Ms Foo asked if the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) would consider working with other agencies to help the affected families to protect themselves against the midge outbreak by providing them with screens and placing nets in prominent areas such as bus stops.

She also asked MEWR to consider planting more trees and shrubs around the reservoir so that the midges can congregate around the vegetation rather than go into residents’ homes.

Similarly, Dr Chia Shi-Lu, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, asked in a supplementary question whether MEWR will consider looking into ways to change the microclimate around the banks of the reservoirs, citing studies that have shown that this can have an impact on midge outbreaks.

Mr Masagos said that the ministry will consider the proposed suggestions and will work with the relevant agencies to ascertain if such measures can help to alleviate the problem.

“We don’t want to create new problems such as people having different kinds of pests (in their homes) because of the kinds of trees that we have planted near their homes or around the reservoirs,” he explained.

MIDGES ARE HERE TO STAY

However, Mr Masagos cautioned that to expect that the midges can be completely eradicated is unrealistic, given that they are part of Singapore’s natural aquatic ecosystems and are food for fish and birds.

“At the end of the day, we have to recognise that man cannot control nature. We can only do our best to suppress (the problem) and we have to (learn) to live with nature. In fact, we are the ones intruding into their living spaces,” he said.

Mr Masagos also noted that efforts to combat the problem must find a delicate balance as relying too much on larvicide and fogging will compromise the health and safety of Singaporeans.

“There is a tradeoff between killing enough or killing so much that in the end, we kill ourselves. There is a limit to which these measures can mitigate the issues that residents are facing,” he said.

Related topics

Masagos Zulkifli environment Pandan Reservoir insects nature

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