Excerpt of statements by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim at the Committee of Supply Debate, 4 March 2011
EXCERPT OF STATEMENTS BY MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES YAACOB IBRAHIM AT THE COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY DEBATE, 4 MARCH 2011
1. I wish to thank Mr Cedric Foo, our GPC Chairman, and members for their questions and suggestions.
2. Mr Foo asked whether Singapore has been developing sustainably.
3. Over the last decade, we have made good progress in enhancing Singapore’s environment, through the combined efforts of government, businesses and Singaporeans.
4. We are making better use of our resources. Water and energy efficiency have improved, as have recycling rates.
5. The quality of our living environment has also gone up with the upgrading of our hawker centres, sustaining good air quality, and keeping down the incidence of vector borne diseases like dengue.
6. However, we cannot afford to be complacent. From time to time, we are reminded of the need to continually adapt to new challenges. Despite a low incidence of food poisoning in the last 5 years at an average of about 4 incidents per 1000 retail food establishments, the 2009 food poisoning incident linked to a stall at Geylang Serai Temporary Market was a timely reminder for more stringent regulations. NEA increased the frequency of inspecting food establishments, stiffened penalties for food hygiene offences and re-emphasised education for food handlers.
7. Likewise, although flood-prone areas have been reduced by 98 per cent from 3200 ha in the 1970s to 56 ha today, the last year’s flooding incidents led us to review the existing drainage infrastructure. PUB has begun work on several key locations including Orchard Road. Given the uncertainties in weather patterns, PUB will design new drains to cope with more intense rain, within the constraints of cost effectiveness and competing land use. For more extensive monitoring of water levels in the key canals and drains, we have expanded our network of water level sensors from 32 to 90 since December 2010 and will increase it further to 150 this year. An SMS Alert system to provide early warning of potential floods will be rolled out to the public later this year. We will also continue to invest in infrastructure, and work with building owners and managing agents, businesses and residents to ensure adequate flood protection for their properties.
The environment is everyone’s responsibility
8. It takes more than technology and infrastructure to meet environmental challenges. It requires us all to do our part. This is why over time, we have broadened our focus to sustainable solutions which encourage, enable and empower people.
9. Beyond its role as a regulator, the government will take the lead in sustainable practices and facilitate businesses and households towards being more environmentally responsible.
10. Businesses have responded well to our incentive schemes coming up with innovative ideas that reduce their environmental footprint. For example, Siemens was awarded a S$4M grant from the Environment and Water Industry Programme Office (EWI) to develop an electrochemical-based desalination process that aims to cut energy consumption by half. A small-scale pilot plant has been in operation since February this year.
11. Our communities have played their part in the progress we made over the years. A Public Perception Survey conducted last year shows that Singaporeans are taking greater ownership of the environment. 80 per cent of respondents said they would buy energy efficient household appliances, while 84 per cent acknowledged they had a personal role to play in water conservation. 80 per cent of respondents checked their home every week to guard against mosquito breeding. I am encouraged by these findings.
12. These survey findings are borne out in our interactions with the community. I commend the ground-up initiatives by organisations such as the Waterways Watch Society, as well as individuals such as 2010 Bayer Youth Environmental Envoy Mr Chua Ang Hong and 2010 Ecofriend Award winner Mrs Dhillon Awtar Singh who actively show the way in preserving, protecting and promoting our environment and water resources.
13. Safeguarding the environment for present and future generations amidst new challenges will require continued commitment and collaboration.
14. The Sustainable Singapore Blueprint released in 2009, provides a framework for responding effectively to these challenges. The Blueprint identified key goals for 2030 across various aspects of the environment. This will guide us towards our vision of a liveable and lively Singapore that Singaporeans are proud to call home.
15. In the coming year, my ministry will focus on the key thrusts of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, namely boosting our resource efficiency, protecting and enhancing our environment, building capabilities and fostering community action.
THEME 1: IMPROVING RESOURCE EFFICIENCY
16. Let me first cover our efforts to improve resource efficiency given our constraints in water, energy and land.
Ensuring Water Resilience
17. Mr Lim Wee Kiak and Mdm Ho Geok Choo asked about the implications of the 1961 Water Agreement expiring later this year.
18. Singapore imports water from Malaysia under two agreements - the 1961 and 1962 Water Agreements. Our first Water Agreement with Malaysia will expire on 31 August 2011, while the second Water Agreement will expire in 2061.
19. Through the years, as part of our Four National Taps strategy, Singapore has been building up our local sources by developing new reservoir schemes as well as desalination and NEWater.
20. With the completion of Punggol and Serangoon Reservoirs by end 2011, and Marina Reservoir which was completed in Nov 2010, our water catchment will increase to two-thirds of Singapore’s land area. The second desalination plant in Tuas, which will be ready in 2013, will add another 70 million gallons of water a day to our water supply. We will continue to introduce NEWater into our reservoirs, especially during dry spells such as the one we experienced in February last year. Together, NEWater and desalinated water will meet 40 per cent of our total water demand. The rest can be met by imported water and water from our local catchments. By 2060, we plan to increase our desalination and NEWater capacities to be able to meet up to 30 per cent and 50 per cent of our water needs respectively.
21. These local sources are sufficient to replace water imported under the 1961 Water Agreement. Therefore, the expiry of the 1961 Water Agreement will have no impact on our water supply and water tariffs. Upon the expiry of the agreement, Singapore would hand over all assets under this agreement to Malaysia and we will continue to sell treated water to Malaysia as provided under the 1962 water agreement.
Water Demand Efficiency
22. For water sustainability however, having a robust water supply is only half the story. We must continue our efforts in water conservation.
23. Last year, we introduced the Water Efficiency Management Plan (WEMP), a voluntary initiative under PUB’s 10 per cent Challenge to help non-domestic customers. These plans include analysis of current water use, identification of potential water savings measures and an implementation roadmap. Non-domestic customers who meet the funding criteria will also be able to tap our existing Water Efficiency Fund to implement these measures.
24. The government is setting an example. Close to 70 per cent of all public sector buildings have achieved the Water Efficiency Building certification as part of their efforts to reduce water consumption.
25. The private sector is also demonstrating commitment to improve water efficiency. To date, 86 premises have submitted their Water Efficiency Management Plans, with overall water saving targets of up to 10 per cent. For example, SATS Catering tested and installed a new custom-made dishwasher, which cuts dishwashing water use by 40 per cent.
26. Mr Teo Ho Pin asked about measures to encourage an eco-friendly lifestyle.
27. Our long term target is to bring down our daily per capita domestic water consumption to 147 litres by 2020, and 140 litres by 2030. Today we are at 154 litres, down from 165 litres in 2003. Using water-efficient products can further reduce water usage. The Mandatory Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme (MWELS) was introduced in 2009 for taps, flushing cisterns and urinals. Currently, more than 5000 models with water efficiency rating of 1-tick and above are registered under this scheme.
28. MWELS has allowed consumers to make more informed choices when making purchases. The labelling scheme will be extended to clothes washing machines this October.
29. I thank Mdm Ho for her suggestions on water-saving practices. As part of its ongoing efforts to get people to use water wisely, PUB launched the Water Conservation Awareness Programme on 27 Feb, aimed at various segments of the population. These initiatives include teaching students how to conduct water audits at home with their family, and working with maid employment agencies to include water conservation as part of the training given to domestic helpers. The public has responded well since the launch, with more than 1,800 requests for water saving kits made. Indeed, everyone can play a part by adopting simple water-saving habits in our daily lives.
30. Going forward, PUB will continue to explore innovative technologies to ensure water sustainability, such as a smart water grid to optimise operational effectiveness and resource efficiency.
31. Striving for effective water management has turned a strategic vulnerability into a competitive advantage for Singapore. In the last four years, the local water cluster has grown from 50 to more than 70 companies. The new investments secured will add more than $550M to our economy and more than 2200 jobs will be created when all projects are fully ramped up. The annual Singapore International Water Week, which was co-located with the World Cities Summit last year, drew over 14,000 participants from 112 different countries and regions, and has positioned Singapore as a global hydro hub for the sharing of ideas and technologies at the forefront of water research and innovation.
Improving Energy Efficiency
32. Like water, energy is a critical resource for Singapore. We have limited access to alternative energy sources such as geothermal and wind energy. Our small physical size also constrains how much we can rely on solar energy.
33. Mr Cedric Foo asked about energy efficiency in Singapore. Greater energy efficiency benefits the consumer, companies, the economy and the environment. For families, this translates into lower utility bills. For companies, this reduces business costs and raises productivity. For the economy,energy efficiency enhances energy security.
34. Improving energy efficiency is the primary strategy in our whole-of-government efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Our energy intensity has improved by about 8 per cent from 2005 to 2009, and we will need to continue our efforts to meet our target, under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, to reduce Singapore’s energy intensity by 35 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.
35. We can meet this target through the joint efforts of government, businesses and the community. All Info-comms technology (ICT) equipment purchased by public agencies today meet the latest Energy Star standards. We are encouraging public agencies to install or retrofit their buildings with more efficient chiller systems, as these account for the largest part of a building’s energy use.
36. As was announced in last year’s Committee of Supply, energy management practices will be made mandatory for companies that consume more than 15GWh of energy yearly from 2013 to ensure the efficient use of energy. This will be legislated through an Energy Conservation Act. The Bill will be published later this year to gather public feedback.
37. In April last year, NEA, EMA and EDB jointly launched the Energy Efficiency National Partnership (EENP) to help companies build up the energy management capabilities required to comply with the Energy Conservation Act.
38. Companies have benefited from sharing energy efficiency best practices at EENP events. For instance, a waste heat recovery workshop prompted 3M to actively look for opportunities to manage energy through heat recovery systems within their plants.
39. The Singapore Certified Energy Manager or SCEM programme has also equipped energy managers from companies with skills to manage energy use in their organisations more effectively. To defray part of the training cost, NEA administers a SCEM Training Grant to co-fund about 80 per cent of the SCEM professional level course fees. As at end Dec 2010, 475 applications have been approved. We target to train 1000 energy managers by 2013.
40. In addition, NEA administers incentive schemes to encourage industry players to adopt energy efficient measures.
41. To further address Mr Teo’s query on how government will encourage households to go green, let me add that much is being done to encourage the adoption of more energy efficient practices. NEA’s 10 per cent Energy Challenge was launched in 2008 to encourage households to save 10 per cent or more of their household electricity use. We have enjoyed strong community support. For example, in 2010, the South West CDC and NEA launched the South West Carbon Buster Roadmap, which spells out actions that businesses, community organisations, schools and residents in the district can adopt to reduce carbon emissions.
42. One simple step the public can take is to opt for more energy efficient appliances. I announced in 2009 that Minimum Energy Performance Standards or MEPS will be implemented for air-conditioners and refrigerators, which are the two highest energy users for a typical household. From Sep 2011, all the most inefficient 0-tick appliances, and some of the 1-tick and 2-tick appliances will no longer be available. There will nonetheless still be a wide range of energy-efficient brands and models. We will be exploring the possibility of extending MEPS to other appliances, such as lighting, in the future.
43. As an illustration of the kind of savings a typical household in a 4-room flat can expect to enjoy, if they choose a 4-tick refrigerator, switch to energy efficient lightbulbs and turn off standby power, they can save about 15 per cent of their monthly electricity bill. In addition, if they opt for a 4-tick air-conditioner when they replace their old one, and keep the thermostat at about 25 degrees Celsius, they can achieve up to 30 per cent savings. This is very significant, and is over and above the U-save rebate of $320 that a 4-room flat household will receive.
44. Mr Lim Wee Kiak asked about the status of green vehicles take-up. Indeed, making energy efficient choices also extends to our mode of travel and the vehicles we use.
45. We are encouraged by the healthy response to the GVR scheme. As of Dec 2010, there were 8,700 green vehicles, up from 7,200 in 2009. The Green Vehicle Rebate or GVR was introduced in 2001 to minimise the cost differential between green vehicles and their conventional equivalents. To continue supporting vehicle owners in making greener purchases, the existing GVR scheme will be extended until the end of next year for electric and petrol-electric hybrid vehicles. As mentioned by the Finance Minister, the government will be undertaking a comprehensive review on the measures to promote the adoption of green vehicles, as part of our overall efforts to promote sustainable development.
Developing a more robust waste management system
46. Singapore’s land constraints necessitate effective waste management. Currently, an average Singaporean disposes of 860g of waste a day, which is about a third more than places like Germany or Taiwan.
47. While individually this might not seem much, it adds up to over 300 kg per person in a year. To understand what this translates to, taking the whole population of Singapore, in one year, just for domestic waste alone, we collectively dispose enough to cover an eighth of Singapore’s surface area. Waste minimisation and recycling are therefore important strategies for us to reduce the land needed for waste disposal.
48. Mr Liang Eng Hwa asked what we are doing to ensure a sustainable waste management system. Our approach to waste minimisation is encapsulated in the 3Rs - Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle: reduce our use of materials where possible, re-use items in working condition instead of throwing them away, and recycle what we cannot use to recover its value.
49. We have made good progress so far towards our target of a 70 per cent recycling rate by 2030, with our recycling rate increasing from 40 per cent in 2000 to 58 per cent in 2010. Recycling rates for scrap metals is at 94 per cent while construction waste is at 99 per cent. By reducing the amount of waste generated and implementing more recycling initiatives, companies can reap cost savings in waste disposal fees. Commercial premises such as Intercontinental Singapore and 313@Somerset have already implemented programmes to recycle paper, plastic, glass and metal waste, and we hope that more will follow their example.
50. To reduce waste at source, NEA signed a voluntary agreement with industries to encourage them to reduce packaging waste. It is encouraging that over 120 organisations have already joined the Singapore Packaging Agreement, and we encourage more companies to do the same. To date, 4,500 tonnes of waste have been avoided through improvements made to processes and packaging, resulting in savings of over $8 million.
51. We will continue to encourage waste management efforts by the private sector. NEA’s $8mil 3R Fund was launched in 2009 to fund new projects that minimise and recycle waste. To date, 15 projects have been awarded, and are projected to reduce around 50,000 tonnes of waste. One such project by Shangri-La Hotel involves setting up recycling stations, upgrading its existing bin centre and raising staff awareness.
52. For domestic recycling, I wish to assure Mr Lim Wee Kiak that all households in Singapore have access to recycling services. This includes collection services provided to all HDB and landed estates under the National Recycling Programme (NRP), with 1,600 recycling bins placed in common areas of HDB estates. Condominiums and private apartments are also required to have recycling receptacles for residents.
53. The NRP for households will be enhanced in the new public waste collection contracts awarded from 2011 through to 2014. We will make it easier for households to recycle. Households can look forward to more recycling bins and more frequent collection services. There will be one recycling bin for every HDB block with daily collection, instead of one bin for every five HDB blocks with weekly collection. Landed households will be provided with a recycling bin each and their recyclables will be collected weekly instead of fortnightly. Garden waste will be collected for recycling once a week. Waste collectors will also provide incentives to encourage household recycling. These measures will make it easier for the public to practise recycling as a part of their daily lives.
54. We can and must all do our part to reduce the amount of waste we each generate and dispose of, through simple everyday habits like recycling bottles and reducing food waste. Collectively, we can make a difference.
THEME 2: PROTECTING AND ENHANCING OUR ENVIRONMENT
55. A second key thrust is to protect and enhance our environment. Our economy, society and environment are closely linked. Fresh air, clean streets, and liveable spaces are desired features in prosperous and vibrant communities.
Achieving better air quality
56. Mr Maliki asked about our efforts to ensure high air quality standards.
57. On balance, Singapore maintained relatively high standards in 2010, achieving a Pollutant Standards Index rating of ‘Good’ for 93 per cent of the year. However, we experienced a few days of moderate air quality last year due to haze from forest fires in the region.
58. We are continuing our close collaboration with our regional partners on trans-boundary haze. Singapore is chair of the Sub-regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Trans-boundary Haze Pollution from 2010 to 2012. During our term, we will strengthen the bilateral programmes conducted by Malaysia and Singapore in Riau and Jambi respectively. New regional initiatives will also be undertaken, such as the establishment of a Regional Haze Training Network for sharing of expertise and training in haze management, and enhancing the capabilities of the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre hosted by NEA that tracks the hot spots in the region.
59. In addition to monitoring the haze situation, our capabilities in climate science and modelling will be built up, to better understand regional and local climatic patterns and predict future climate changes. We are partnering the Hadley Centre of UK, a leader in climate science, to undertake climate change studies, co-develop regional climate models, and build up our expertise in climate science.
60. Mr Maliki also asked about our efforts to curb domestic emissions. NEA plans to progressively lower Fine Particulate Matter or PM2.5 levels, which can cause and aggravate respiratory ailments. We aim to reduce PM2.5 levels to 12µg/m3 by 2020. To do so, we will need to keep vehicular emissions in check.
61. Diesel vehicles have been on the Euro IV standard since 2006. We will adopt Euro V standards for new diesel vehicles by 2014. Besides reducing PM2.5 levels, this will also reduce other pollutants such as NO2 and ozone. Off-road diesel engines such as cranes, excavators and generator sets are another source of PM2.5, and we will be implementing tighter emission standards for such engines from July 2012.
87. The challenge of realizing our vision of a sustainable Singapore is as much one of partnership and personal responsibility, as it is of public policy. To build a future that we desire and that our children deserve, we need to embrace the idea that taking care of the environment is everyone’s shared responsibility, not just the government’s. In doing so, we will also play our part as a responsible global citizen to tackle climate change, as suggested by Mr Seah Kian Peng.
88. Mr Seah also asked if we can make it mandatory for major national events to be carbon neutral going forward. Given their high visibility, major national events provide a good opportunity for us to promote environmental protection and ownership. NEA has been engaging the organisers and stakeholders of major events to make their events environmentally-friendly.
89. These include introducing measures to cut down on packaging and litter, providing adequate recycling bins, using energy efficient lighting and encouraging participants to use public transport. These will help reduce the carbon footprint of such large scale events.
90. NEA has also worked with the organisers of the Youth Olympic Games, National Day Parade, River Hongbao and Chingay to encourage participants and visitors to keep the venues litter-free through the provision of adequate refuse bins, display of educational materials and public announcements at the event sites.
91. Beyond using national events as platforms to build up a stronger sense of community ownership and responsibility, our officers at the five Regional Offices island-wide have engaged the grassroots through CCC meetings and grassroots events to better understand and address the community’s concerns. A $1.5mil 3P Partnership Fund is also available to support 3P efforts by grassroots, schools, NGOs and companies. My ministry will continue to grow our networks of teachers, youth, grassroots and corporate partners, to champion the environment in their respective communities and organisations.
92. Such community partnership has been a centrepiece of our water sustainability efforts. The Active, Beautiful, and Clean, or “ABC”, Waters Programme was launched in 2006 to encourage the public to get closer to water so that they can better value and enjoy this precious resource.
93. To address Mr Heng Chee How’s query on the status of the ABC Waters Program, I am pleased to share that 15 projects have been completed, and these have been very well received by the community.
94. 2011 promises an equally exciting array of projects for the community. The flagship project this year is the Kallang River - Bishan Park project where the river will become the focus of the park following its transformation into a natural meandering waterway. The project also features innovative bio-engineering techniques and natural cleansing systems using plants. At MacRitchie Reservoir, amongst other improvements, visitors can expect a new submerged boardwalk that will allow people to walk through shallow waters and appreciate water from a different perspective. These projects are part of more than 100 identified island-wide under the ABC Waters Masterplan, including Sungei Whampoa, which will be implemented in phases over the next 20 years.
95. PUB is also working closely with other public and private agencies to encourage the adoption of ABC waters design features within their developments. ABC Waters design features have been introduced in public housing projects such as Punggol Waterway and private developments like the Tree House Condominium by CDL.
96. Water we can drink from the tap, reservoirs we can canoe in, vibrant hawker centres, clean streets, fresh air - these are for us to use, but not to be taken for granted. We have to nurture a clean and liveable home for everyone through the combined efforts of all. Our efforts are recognised internationally today, with Singapore ranked first out of 151 countries in Gallup’s 2010 Air and Water Survey and maintaining its top placing amongst Asian cities in Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey for the past three years.
97. In conclusion, doing our part in safeguarding the environment does not have to be an extra-ordinary event or activity. Simple everyday actions can protect the environment. Adopting energy and water efficient devices at home can help extend the lifespan of our resources. Everything we buy or throw away has some impact on the environment because it requires energy, water and resources to produce or dispose. Reducing our food waste, avoiding excess packaging and recycling are all easy ways that take us one step closer to our vision of a sustainable and liveable Singapore.
98. We can create an even better environment through positive changes in the way we think and act. Together, we can safeguard our environment for the present and for future generations to come.