How to keep Singapore clean

Lee Jian Xuan The Straits Times AsiaOne 24 Jun 14;

While enforcement is still needed to keep the streets tidy, more community involvement can set the right values and social norms, Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu said yesterday.

She was speaking at a group discussion on how best to keep Singapore clean. Organised by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), it involved 63 participants, ranging from youth to grassroots leaders and environmental groups.

The three-hour-long session sought feedback on two issues: littering and keeping community spaces clean.

One group proposed holding a "No Cleaners Day" more regularly at more places, such as town councils and companies. Some constituencies, like Nee Soon South, already have such a practice, which sees members of the public do the job to gain appreciation of what it involves.

Ms Fu said: "It's effective in drawing awareness to the amount of litter that each person is responsible for... but I don't see that we will do it for an extended period of time in too many places."

Other ideas raised included publicly shaming wrongdoers online - as happened last week to a woman who was caught on camera urinating at a lift in Pinnacle@Duxton.

While this would establish a "strong norm" of what is wrong for future reference, Ms Fu stressed that it is important to target the action, not the individual.

Participants agreed that while enforcement was needed to take litterbugs to task, efforts to educate the public on cleanliness must be ramped up.

"We need to get youth more oriented to nature through increased exposure, especially since many of them grow up in an urbanised environment," said kayaking coach Ding Kian Seng, 31, who has observed a lack of awareness and knowledge of nature among his students.

But Public Hygiene Council chairman Liak Teng Lit felt that strict enforcement is still vital to clamp down on a "sizeable minority" of persistent litterbugs.

He said foreign visitors have told him that the Republic is not as clean as it was five years ago.

"Each of us must take responsibility in our sphere of influence, and rally our colleagues, neighbours and friends to apply peer pressure on people who litter."

The discussion is part of MEWR's public consultation efforts for the revision of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint. Unveiled in 2009, the blueprint serves as a guide for the country's sustainable development until 2030.

The public can give their comments on public cleanliness via an online form on http://www.sustainablesingapore.