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LCQ5: Rodent prevention and control work in public housing estates
     Following is a question by the Hon Leung Man-kwong and a reply by the Secretary for Housing, Ms Winnie Ho, in the Legislative Council today (December 7):

     The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department announced earlier on that the overall Rodent Infestation Rate (RIR) for the whole year of 2021 was 3.1 per cent, and indicated that the RIR level showed that rodent infestation in public areas was not extensive. However, there are views pointing out that RIR may not be able to fully reflect the actual situation, and my district office often receives complaints involving rodent infestation in public housing estates (PHEs). In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of complaints involving rodent infestation in PHEs received as well as the number of rodents caught in PHEs across the territory by the Government, in the past three years;

(2) whether currently, the cleaning service contractors' contracts awarded by the Housing Department (HD) for PHEs have stipulated the weighting of and indicators for the rodent prevention and control work; regarding housing estates with serious rodent infestation problem, whether the HD will redeploy additional resources to handle the problem; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and 

(3) whether currently, the Hong Kong Housing Authority has included rodent guards as "standard installations" in newly built housing estates and housing courts; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


Acting President,

     My consolidated reply to the question raised by the Hon Leung Man-kwong is as follows:

     The Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) has all along been attaching great importance to hygiene condition in public rental housing (PRH) estates, and providing full support to the cleaning operation and pest control work of the Government through strengthening regular cleaning work in its PRH estates, focusing efforts in tackling hygiene black spots in the estates and enhancing publicity and education.

     For rodent control, the HA targets the three survival conditions of rodents, namely food, harbourage and passages, and tackles the problem by elimination of food sources; removal of hiding places; and blockage of the dispersal routes of rodents. The HA will adopt a multi-pronged strategy in handling hygiene black spots in PRH estates by strengthening cleaning and implementing rodent control work, including placing additional rodenticides and rodent cage traps at locations with more serious rodent infestation. Apart from referring to the Government's Rodent Infestation Rate, the HA also makes reference to the number of complaints on rodent infestation, observation during routine inspections, and maintain communications and collect views of the local community and stakeholders with a view to monitoring the situation of rodent infestation and assessing the effectiveness of rodent prevention and control work. The HA will take into account the causes and circumstances of the rodent infestation problems of individual PRH estate and adopt more targeted prevention and control measures. If needed, HA estate staff will invite other departments with professional knowledge, e.g. the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), to conduct joint inspections to the estates, take joint actions for reviewing the pest and rodent prevention and control work.

     For rodent infestation problem in PRH estates, we notice that some were caused by those who feed animals in the estate and do not handle food waste and refuse properly. Shop tenants need to dispose of food waste properly, which affect the hygiene of PRH estates and possibly lead to rodent issue. PRH estates belong to all people, and maintaining a good estate environment and hygiene relies on the co-operation of both residents and shop tenants. Through various publicity channels such as the Estate Newsletters, Housing Channel, posters and promotional leaflets, the HA will step up publicity work to raise residents' awareness on environmental hygiene as well as rodent prevention and control, appeal to residents and shop tenants to maintain a clean and hygienic conditions of dwelling place, shops and community, and handle waste and abandoned articles properly. We also conduct joint cleaning operations with various stakeholders, including market owners, to work together with a view to eliminating rodent infestation.

     In the past three years (Note 1), the number of reports on rodent issue received in the HA's PRH estates were 760, 740 and 700 respectively. The HA will continue to strengthen anti-rodent work in its estates, implement Estate Cleaning Operation and strengthen pest and rodent prevention and control in priority estates by phases each year. When the HA implemented anti-rodent operations in 80 priority estates in 2021-22 and 50 priority estates in 2022-23 (as at November 2022) (Note 2), the number of rodents caught were about 2 560 and 1 720 (Note 3) respectively. Since other owners and venue managing departments within the boundary of PRH estates have also participated in anti-rodent work, we do not keep the total number of rodents caught within the boundary of PRH estate.

     The scope of the HA's existing cleaning service contracts and property service contracts for PRH estates includes daily pest and rodent prevention and control work with details listed in the work schedules. According to the contract requirement, apart from performing daily cleaning work, the contractors are also required to perform regular pest and rodent prevention and control work in public areas of PRH estates, including patrolling all potential black spots with rodent nuisance within estate boundary, application of pesticides/rodenticides or other appropriate means to perform pest and rodent prevention and control work. In order to ensure the effectiveness of the work, the contractors are required to report the work progress to estate offices periodically. If needed, for example when the rodent problem is aggravated by the works of underground or market nearby, the HA will also provide additional resources to the estates to install additional rodent disinfection facilities and procure additional rodent disinfestation services from professional pest control company in the private market to intensify the rodent disinfection work and effectiveness.

     At locations with more serious rodent infestation, the HA has been making use of technologies such as implementing a trial scheme of network camera system with installation of artificial intelligence motion detector to monitor rodent activities including during the night time. When there is rodent activity within the area under surveillance, recording will start instantly, which improves the effectiveness in anti-rodent during night time. Outcome of the trial scheme is satisfactory, and we will continue to explore the application of new technologies and widen the scope of their use where appropriate. In addition, the HA will set up a night time patrol team on a trial basis at locations with more serious rodent infestation to strengthen rodent control work and patrol against illegal feeding. 

     For new PRH development, the HA has made reference to the Circular Letter titled Guidelines on Rodent-proofing Design in New Buildings and Mosquito/Rodent Prevention and Control Measures in Construction/Demolition Sites issued by the Buildings Department in 2019, as well as the recommendations of the FEHD, and introduced design guidelines on rodent control and installations applicable for new PRH developments in 2020. They include using suitable materials to cover ventilation openings; avoid placing planters near refuse collection points; laying steel wire mesh at drainage point of planters; locating the vertical pipes at external walls at ground floor inside rooms in order to prevent rodents from crawling indoors along the vertical pipes. If the pipes have to be installed on external wall, rodent guards will be installed.

     The HA will continue to carry out rodent prevention and control work in its estates and closely review the effectiveness.
     Thank you, Acting President.

Note 1: i.e. 2020, 2021 and 2022 (up to October).

Note 2: The anti-rodent work in the final cycle in 2022/23 with a total of 30 priority estates will be carried out from January to March 2023.

Note 3: The HA has commenced to collect the number of rodent caught during anti-rodent operations in priority estates since 2021.
Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Issued at HKT 17:01
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