Highlights of Singapore climate issues in 2011

Evelyn Choo Channel NewsAsia 28 Dec 11;

SINGAPORE: More agencies are communicating environment-related messages to the public via social media and engaging in public consultations this year.

In some cases, public consultation has proven to be productive.

For instance, consumers often do not pay attention to labels on electrical appliances, which tell consumers how much energy they would use.

But after a recent public consultation exercise by the National Climate Change Secretariat, a suggestion -- to pitch in terms of dollars and cents so that people will see the real savings and buy the idea -- was made.

This was was among about a thousand ideas floated by participants at the exercise.

It began in September to hear from different segments of society -- including households, industry players, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) -- on climate change.

Some of these ideas look set to shape the National Climate Change Strategy, to be released in the middle of next year.

National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) 3P Network director Yuen Sai Kuan said: "NCCS will be working more closely with various partners and stakeholders in the effort to tackle climate change.

"This will include the likes of NGOs, youth groups, businesses, communities and even other government agencies.

"One particular area that we're working with is with MOE (Ministry of Education), to enhance the school curriculum to incorporate climate change topics."

Besides the change in climate, Singapore faces another looming threat to its environment - flash floods - a result of heavier-than-average rainfall.

Experts said it is too early to tell if climate change is indeed the cause behind more intense showers, but the change in weather patterns has compelled PUB to review its drainage system.

A panel of experts appointed by the government reviewed the country's flood measures.

Under a revised Code of Practice, new drains will be able to hold more water - with capacity increased by up to 50 per cent - depending on the size of the catchment.

Another focus is to improve current infrastructure, which could take three to five years.

Eight out of 10 drainage-widening projects will commence in the first quarter.

PUB chief executive Chew Men Leong said: "We will put in place a drainage master plan that is much more forward-looking, to be able to understand what could well be the kind of scenarios we will face, and then start working from right now, to see how we can expand our drainage capacity, as well as put in other measures - both controlling runoff as well as protecting buildings.

"So there is a system, and we become more robust."

Over the year, PUB also worked to become more open in its communication.

By adding water level sensors and introducing CCTVs in flood-prone areas, information can now be obtained and shared with the public more immediately.

Businesses and property owners welcome this, on top of their own efforts to mitigate flood risks.

Many are in the midst of installing flood barriers at their premises.

- CNA/wk