A sustainable future for Singapore

Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 8 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: Bold plans have been unveiled to create a cleaner and greener future for Singaporeans. They are part of a review of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint - which aims at responding to the challenges that the nation face.

The Government will commit S$1.5 billion to support the roll out of the programmes under the blueprint. This was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the launch of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 on Saturday (Nov 8).

The blueprint, first released in 2009, maps out strategies for Singapore's sustainable development. As part of the review, close to 6,000 people were involved in consultations and discussions.

A long-term vision for Singapore is a model city for green living, even as the country grapples with environmental challenges such as a dry spell earlier this year. Other challenges include housing a growing nation within limited land; mitigating carbon footprint while planning early for climate change; and securing access to water, energy, food and raw materials.

Prime Minister Lee said: "We can do more, we need to do more, as our environmental challenges grow. For example, climate change ... in February, we had our longest dry spell ever. The reservoir water levels dropped below normal - everywhere our grass, the grass in our parks, turned brown. We had 'lalang' fires all over Singapore, even one or two forest fires in the nature reserves. But fortunately our lives were not disrupted because we ran our desalination plants at 100 per cent and we increased our NEWater output to meet our needs.

"And we didn't have to ration water, as we planned for a margin of safety. So we endured the drought, and eventually the rains came, and Singapore became green again. But we cannot become complacent because climate is changing. I think we must expect more such extreme episodes, more droughts, more heavy rains at different times and we must be able to cope with that."

Plans announced on Saturday which would enable Singapore to be cleaner and greener would focus on three areas: 1) A Liveable & Endearing Home; 2) A Vibrant & Sustainable City; and 3) An Active & Gracious Community.

For a high-quality living environment, there are plans to more than double skyrise greenery from 61 hectares in 2013 to 200 hectares in 2030. Last year, there were 4,040 hectares of parks. Come 2030, there will be 0.8 hectares of park for every 1,000 people. And more will find it convenient to get to parks, with 90 per cent of households within a 10-minute walk from a park in 2030. In 2013, the figure was 80 per cent.

Land set aside for water bodies will also increase - from 959 hectares in 2013 to 1,039 hectares in 2030. Innovative features in new and existing towns will also help residents to be more environmentally friendly. These include eco-pedestals that allow water used for hand washing to be used for flushing; LED lighting with motion sensors at staircases; and more bicycle parking lots.

And on the roads, a cleaner mode of transport to reduce carbon emissions and enjoy fresher air. The length of cycling paths will be extended from 213km in 2013 to 700km in 2030. Innovative features and designs will be introduced in some estates for a better cycling environment, starting with Ang Mo Kio.

The aim is to increase the share of journeys during peak hours made via public transport to 75 per cent. In 2013, the figure was 64 per cent. To do so, the length of rail network will be extended to 360km in 2030 from 178km in 2013. The proportion of households within a 10-minute walk from train stations will be increased to 80 per cent in 2030, from 58.5 per cent in 2013. Electric car-sharing and driverless car trials will also be conducted.

To conserve precious resources, the government encourages the reuse and recycling of materials. It aims to raise the national recycling rate from 61 per cent in 2013 to 70 per cent in 2030. There will be centralised chutes for recyclables in all new HDB flats, and better recycling infrastructure for private housing.

An integrated waste management facility will be built, which will have the capacity to segregate recyclables from waste. There will also be more initiatives to reduce food waste in business and improve recycling of electronic waste.

For a green economy, solar power will feature prominently in Singapore's energy system, with plans to boost adoption to 350 megawatt-peak by 2020, a significant increase from the existing 15 megawatt-peak of solar power capacity. It will form about 5 per cent of peak electricity demand in 2020.

The Government is also aiming for 80 per cent of buildings to achieve the Building and Construction Authority's Green Mark Certified rating, up from the 21.9 per cent last year. To reduce carbon footprint as well as improve energy and water efficiency, the Government has initiatives to encourage green buildings. These include a S$52 million fund for research on promising solutions. Innovation districts incorporating educational institutions and industrial estates will be test-beds for new technologies.

However, for the vision to come to life, a collective effort is required. "The responsibility - some of it lies with the government, a large part of it has to do with what each of us individually choose and decide to do with our own lives. HDB can build more convenient chutes for recycling, but households have to use them and have to practise the 3Rs - reduce, reuse and recycle," said PM Lee.

"Together, we have to develop new norms if we are really going to succeed in being clean and green. And that's why people are at the heart of this Sustainable Singapore Blueprint and we hope Singapore will be an active and gracious community."

Thus, there will be more activities for residents to shape their landscape. For example, in the "Bright Spots Challenge", organisations and individuals clean up community spaces and turn them into "Bright Spots". The challenge aims to have a total of 500 such spots by the end of next year. There are now more than 300 "Bright Spots" since the movement was launched in 2012.

Under another initiative, the public can pledge to reduce food waste and the use of disposables on certain days. They can then post photographs on social media to show how they did so. The challenge aims to collect pledges of 50,000 "No Waste Days".

In a Facebook post, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said: "We have made much progress since the first version of the SSB (Sustainable Singapore Blueprint) was rolled out in 2009. We need to evolve in order to face the major challenges that the future will bring due to climate change, urbanisation, resource depletion and pollution. But these same challenges also present us with opportunities to build the model city of the future. Singapore will only be our best home if each and every one of us does our part. We need a sense of personal ownership and collective responsibility."

- CNA/rw/al

Sustainable development: Much progress made, much more to be done

SINGAPORE — Five years after the first Singapore Sustainable Blueprint (SSB) setting out the Republic’s goals on sustainable development was published in 2009, progress has been made and, in some instances, even achieved ahead of projected timelines.

But while the Government has added significantly to Singapore’s green spaces, expanded the use of renewable energy and stayed on track in meeting emission targets, experts and observers say much remains to be done — in particular, improving public attitudes towards environmental conservation and sustainable living.

The SSB 2009, the first of its kind on sustainable development, covered four broad areas. The first was to green Singapore’s urban environment by setting aside more land for parks and creating more skyrise greenery or rooftop gardens. Second, Singapore would look at making better use of resources, through initiatives such as exploring renewable energy, energy-efficient buildings, improving recycling and waste management.

Third, Singapore would aim to become a lead example in green technology, as a test-bed for new technologies, such as solar energy and “green” buildings.

Fostering community action on leading environmentally-friendly lifestyles through greater outreach comprised the fourth area of focus.

The second edition of the SSB is due today, following a review that began last year.


The 2009 blueprint had set a target to reach 4,200ha of parkland by 2020 and 0.8ha of parkland per 1,000 people by 2030, by opening new parks such as Gardens by the Bay and Coney Island Park. On track to reach this target, Singapore’s current park space measured 4,040ha as of last year.

Significant headway has also been made in expanding green spaces upwards through rooftop gardens on blocks of newer flats and on the top decks of Housing and Development Board (HDB) multi-storey carparks. Originally set at 50ha by 2030 in the blueprint, figures from the Ministry of National Development show Singapore already exceeded this target with 61ha last year.

Despite this visible progress, Nature Trekker founder and wildlife guide Ben Lee said increasing park space and skyrise greenery has little impact on preserving Singapore’s biodiversity, which requires large spaces with more vegetation to thrive.

Assistant professor at the National University of Singapore’s Department of Geography Harvey Neo also pointed out that the 2009 blueprint had made no mention of increasing the number of nature reserves or expanding the size of existing ones.


In the 2009 blueprint, the goal was to raise national recycling standards from 56 per cent in 2008 to 65 per cent in 2020. Two major types of waste — plastic and food — were singled out for their low recycling rates and a study on the feasibility of mandating the recycling of such waste was set out.

To get households to actively recycle their waste, more recycling facilities have been provided through a pilot of separate chutes for recyclables in housing estates. At the beginning of the year, it was announced that future public housing developments would have eco-friendly features such as centralised chutes for recyclable waste.

This followed the success of Singapore’s first eco-precinct Treelodge@Punggol, where centralised chutes for recyclables collected three times the amount of recyclables compared with other HDB blocks. Under a three-year initiative, public waste collectors also installed a blue recycling bin at every HDB block.

National recycling rates have been steadily climbing over the past few years. Singapore recycled 61 per cent of the 7.8 million tonnes of waste it generated last year, of which household recycling rate was about 20 per cent. However, household recycling rates have always lagged behind industrial recycling here and public education efforts seem to have little effect on changing public behaviour, said Dr Neo.


The authorities had also set out to have 80 per cent of the buildings here achieve Green Mark certification, an eco-friendly rating that is awarded by the Building and Construction Authority, by 2030. To date, more than 25 per cent of the buildings have been certified.

While the process of greening Singapore’s buildings has been slow, programme director (EcoCampus) at the Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) Nilesh Jadhav noted that new developments, such as new lighting technology and more efficient air-conditioning systems, have quickened the pace.

To speed things up, Mr Nilesh said the authorities could consider making Green Mark certification for buildings that are seven- to 10-years-old a mandatory requirement.

As solar energy sets to be Singapore’s most promising source of renewable energy, the blueprint also cited plans to invest in solar technology test-bedding projects to prepare for a larger-scale adoption of this energy.

In March, the Government said it would raise the total installed solar capacity to 350 megawatts-peak (MWp) by 2020, or about 5 per cent of the annual electricity demand. At present, Singapore has a total installed capacity of about 19MWp.

Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, executive director of the ERI@N, said he was confident Singapore will hit the 2020 target. “There is acceleration of implementation primarily by the public sector and (as) prices fall, there are clear signs that payback periods are in the five-to-eight-year range. And this will make it very attractive even for private companies to install solar (systems) on their rooftops,” he said.


Promoting greener modes of transport, such as walking, cycling and public transport, was another key feature of the blueprint. Setting out to make public transport more accessible, the Government intended to double the rail network to 278km by 2020 and at the same time, invest in cycling networks and bicycle-parking facilities at key transport hubs.

Last year’s Land Transport Master Plan set an even more ambitious target of making eight in 10 homes within a 10-minute walk from an MRT train station with the expansion of the rail network to 360km by 2030.

The National Cycling Plan announced last month further outlined plans to develop a 700km-long cycling network by 2030, starting with 100km of intra-town cycling paths in Yishun, Punggol and Bedok next year.

Noting that Singapore is on the right track, Dr Neo said investments in public transport will take time to materialise, but he is optimistic that the issues of over-congestion will improve over time.

However, he said convincing the public that cycling is a viable alternative option would be a challenge without adjustments and improvements to make the road system faster and safer for cyclists.

The blueprint also laid out plans to test a slew of greener transport technologies, including diesel hybrid and electric vehicles, given how transport is a major cause of air pollution.

And since 2011, the authorities have been studying the feasibility of electric vehicles on Singapore roads, where the Land Transport Authority concluded the first phase of an electric vehicle test-bed in December last year.


Despite measures in the 2009 blueprint to rally the public into making environmental sustainability part of everyday culture in Singapore, observers say more needs to be done to engage the community meaningfully before any change can be sparked.

And though there are plans to fund new initiatives and programmes by non-governmental organisations and the Community Development Councils, chairman of the Public Hygiene Council Liak Teng Lit said change must start with the individual. “It’s not about the plan only, it’s also about societal attitude and values, how we see our responsibility,” he said.

Citing examples of littering and cluttered HDB common corridors, he said Singaporeans have not learnt to take care of the environment beyond their front doors “I think we’re not quite there yet. The average person in Singapore does not internalise the message that they have a role to play.”

And with Singapore being one of the most consumerist societies in the world, Dr Neo said future plans to address sustainable living would have to target specific behaviours, such as reducing food waste or improving recycling, instead of a focus on using less.

Sustainable Singapore Blueprint launched

SINGAPORE — Maintaining green spaces and reducing reliance on private car transportation for a liveable home, creating a “green economy” and increasing domestic recycling for a sustainable city, and greater community engagement.

These are just some of the key areas highlighted in the latest Singapore Sustainable Blueprint 2015 (SSB 2015).

Unveiled at the launch of the year-long Clean & Green 2015 Campaign today (Nov 8) by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the blueprint mapped out the government’s vision to commit S$1.5 billion over the next five years to create a more liveable and sustainable future.

Environmental challenges stemming from climate change - like the Singapore’s longest drought in recorded history in February this year - are expected to grow, said Mr Lee. “We cannot become complacent, because climate is changing and I think we must expect more of such extreme episodes - more droughts, more heavy rains at different times - and we must be able to cope with it."

It is the second blueprint on sustainable development after the first one was released in 2009. Statistics compiled by the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) showed that Singapore was mostly on track to meeting the original 2030 targets set in the 2009 blueprint. The SSB 2015 will see these 2030 targets stretched further, especially for indicators where Singapore had already exceeded the original target.

One such area is the amount of skyrise greenery or rooftop gardens. Originally set at 50 hectares by 2030 in the 2009 blueprint, Singapore had 61 hectares in 2013 and will see a new target of 200 hectares in the latest blueprint.

Other initiatives to enhance green spaces include maintaining public cleanliness and planning parks such that nine in ten households will be within a 10-minute walk from a park. While the length of park connectors has grown steadily from 113km in 2009 to 216km in 2013, it will be further expanded to 400km by 2030.

Continuing the 2009 blueprint’s focus of encouraging greater use greener modes of transport, the SSB 2015 has included introducing features in existing towns to create a more conducive environment for walking and cycling.

Because building more roads for more cars is not a viable option, Mr Lee said: "We want a solution in Singapore where the roads are clear, where there are many alternative for people to travel and to travel in a green and sustainable, and efficient and convenient way."

Under the National Cycling Plan announced last month, the length of cycling paths will be expanded from the current 213km to 700km by 2030, along with intra-town cycling networks that will be piloted in Ang Mo Kio and Tampines.

In addition, new and upcoming MRT lines will increase the length of rail network from 178km to 360km so that 80 per cent of households – compared to the 58.5 per cent in 2013 – will be within a 10-minute walk from a train station.

Other plans to reduce the usage of cars also include introducing driverless vehicles, piloting an electric car-sharing scheme and creating more car-free zones in the city through roads closures for public activities like at Haji Lane and Ann Siang Road.

With domestic recycling rates much lower than industrial recycling, improving household recycling was also addressed by introducing more facilities such as centralised chutes for recyclables in all new HDB flats and Pneumatic Waste Conveyance Systems in more towns.

Initiatives to raise adoption of solar power and other sustainability practices in Singapore-based companies were also outlined to create a “green economy”. The number of “green jobs” is also expected to grow with more demand for expertise and research in areas like improving energy and water efficiency, and pollution and waste reduction.

Underpinning the initiatives in the SSB 2015 was the focus on greater community engagement commitment to environmental awareness. As part of the review of the SSB 2009, MEWR had conducted public consultations and surveys with about 6,000 participants. Findings from the survey showed that 78 per cent of respondents were concerned about environmental issues and almost nine in ten believed caring for environment is the community or individual’s responsibility.

To that end, the SSB 2015 intends to support community projects to enliven community spaces and foster stronger community stewardship over caring for the environment and sustainable living practices. For a start, the blueprint aims to grow the number of active green volunteers from over 1,000 to 5,000 by 2030, as well the number of Community in Bloom Gardens from over 700 to 2,000.

Stressing the importance of more people stepping forward to do their part for the environment, Mr Lee said the government provide the infrastructure but individuals also have a responsibility.

"We can build a better transport network, but we have to adjust our commuting lifestyles and habits. HDB can build more convenient chutes for recycling, but households have to use them and practice the 3R’s - reduce, reuse and recycle,” he added. "So together, we have to develop new norms if we’re really going to succeed in being clean and green.

NEA launches ‘no waste days’ challenge
AMANDA LEE Today Online 8 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — To tackle the increasing amount of waste generated in the Republic, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has launched a No Waste Days Challenge to encourage the public to reduce waste and benefit the environment and community.

Launched today (Nov 8) in conjunction with this year’s Clean & Green Singapore campaign, participants of the challenge can choose any day from now till June 30 next year to make an effort not to waste food, and reduce their use of disposables. The NEA hopes to reach up to 50,000 “No Waste Days” by then.

The public can participate in various ways including submitting photographs and pledges to demonstrate their individual “No Waste Days”. They can also hashtag “#nowastedays” on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Another challenge is the Bright Spots Challenge in which the Public Hygiene Council and partners of the Keep Singapore Clean (KSC) Movement is inviting companies, organisations, schools and individuals to take action to improve the cleanliness and hygiene conditions of their community spaces and turn them into “Bright Spots”. Since the launched of the KSC Movement in Sept 2012, there have been more than 300 “Bright Spots”, and the aim is to have 500 “Bright Spots” by the end of next year.

The public can participate by identifying a location and rally stakeholders – such as schools and companies – and taking ownership of its cleanliness. They can then carrying out activities such as picking up litter and inspire others by sharing their stories and experience on the Public Hygiene Council’s website.

In conjunction with the campaign, the National Parks Board (NParks) will also be offering a new free public guided tour of the Pasir Panjang Nursery on Nov 15 at 9am. The tour will offer the public a rare glimpse into NParks’ behind-the-scenes nursery operations and will take about one a half hours to two hours. Limited spaces are available with more than half of the slots already taken up.

To attend the tour, prior registration is required on a first-come-first-served basis. Interested participants may register by e-emailing nparks_urban_gardening@nparks.gov.sg with their names, email-addresses and contact numbers from today.

More details can be found at www.nparks.gov.sg/events

NParks adds more slots for Pasir Panjang Nursery tour
Today Online 9 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — The National Parks’ Board (NParks) has added more time slots for a new free public guided tour of the Pasir Panjang Nursery, after all 60 spots available were snapped up hours after the tour was announced yesterday (Nov 8).

Held in conjunction with this year’s Clean and Green campaign, the tour would give the public a rare glimpse into NParks’ behind-the-scenes nursery operations. Today, the NParks announced it would add another 15 spots to the first 60 slots for the tour at 9am on Nov 15.

It would add two more tours — one at 10.30am with 75 spots, and one at 2.30pm with 50 spots.

The tours will take about one-a-half hours to two hours. Registration is required on a first-come-first-served basis, and interested participants may register by emailing nparks_urban_gardening@nparks.gov.sg with their names, email-addresses and contact numbers.

More details can be found at https://www.nparks.gov.sg/events

Towards a 'car-lite', zero-waste Singapore
Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 11 Nov 14;

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." "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.

Expect extremes

"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. But we cannot become complacent as the climate is changing and we must expect more such extreme episodes." -PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG, highlighting how climate change led to prolonged dry weather between January and March