Singapore will commit $1.5 billion over the next five years to lead the country towards a greener and more sustainable future. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced this yesterday as he outlined wide-ranging plans to turn Singapore into a “car-lite” and zero-waste nation.
These include an electric car-sharing pilot scheme, using Ang Mo Kio and Tampines to test-bed ideas to encourage cycling, and underground pipes to whisk away rubbish in new Housing Board estates, reducing the need for garbage trucks. Neighbourhoods will also become “eco-smart”, through the use of solar panels to power common facilities for instance.
Pointing to Singapore’s 50th birthday next year, PM Lee said “it’s a good time to celebrate our clean and green efforts for the (last) 50 years, and to chart a vision for the future”, as he launched a year-long Clean and Green Singapore 2015 campaign at an event in Choa Chu Kang. He also revealed an ambitious Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015. The 112-page document updates the original 2009 blueprint which sets out Singapore’s targets and strategies for sustainable development until 2030, to ensure the country remains an oasis for everyone.
The latest blueprint, which more than 6,000 people contributed to and took into account local and global developments in technology, sets wide-ranging targets over 15 years, from increasing how much Singapore recycles, to its air quality, even to the amount of skyrise greenery. For the first time, separate recycling goals for households and industry have been included, in a bid to get more residents to do their share. Last year’s non-domestic recycling, which includes the work done by industries, was 77 per cent.
But for households, it was just 20 per cent, pulling down Singapore’s overall recycling rate to 61 per cent. The aim is to bring the overall rate up to 70 per cent by 2030, but that means getting households to do much more. Ms Melissa Tan, chairman of the Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore, believes this is possible if “more is done to raise awareness”. This means getting the message through to the elderly, for instance. National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng also lauded the new car-sharing scheme – which he said kills two birds with one stone.
It would not just reduce the number of cars on the road, but also solve the problem of people not wanting to buy eco-friendly electric cars due to their prohibitive costs. As of September, there was just one pure electric car on the roads here. “We can’t keep building more roads for more cars,” said PM Lee, hoping that Singapore can learn from other cities, such as Copenhagen, where cycling is a way of life. He recalled a 2009 visit to the Danish capital, where he saw people cycling in the freeze of winter.
“They made their city cycling-friendly, with lanes, ramps, and other infrastructure… there, cars have regard to bicycles and give way. We have to learn from these examples… and… pilot ideas to see how we can get them to work in Singapore.” PM Lee also made it clear yesterday that it would take all Singaporeans working together to hit the new sustainability targets. He recalled how the first Keep Singapore Clean campaign in 1968 took a similar “massive effort”. Police and health inspectors advised people against littering while patrolling, fliers were displayed in coffee shops, bus shelters and offices, and the campaign slogan was even printed on cinema tickets.
“We have built a home… we can be proud of. But we must do more as our environmental challenges grow,” he said, highlighting how climate change led to prolonged dry weather between January and March. “Fortunately our lives were not disrupted as we ran our desalination plants at 100 per cent and increased our Newater output to meet our needs,” he said. “But we cannot become complacent as the climate is changing and we must expect more such extreme episodes.
PM Lee, who also presented Heritage Tree Dedication Awards to Singapore Press Holdings, City Developments and Sembcorp Industries for their contributions to the Garden City Fund, was encouraged that many Singaporeans are already organising themselves to do more for the environment.