Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at Clean & Green Singapore 2015 Launch
Mayor Low Yen Ling, friends, ladies and gentlemen.
I am very happy to be here this morning for the Clean and Green Singapore 2015 Launch. Sunshine, a few drops of rain and beautiful green environment. 2015 going to be Singapore’s 50th birthday and I think it is good time for us celebrate our clean and green efforts which we have been doing all these many years and to chart our vision for the future.
The Pioneers amongst us today may remember how we started all this. The first Clean and Green campaign was in 1968 and it was a massive effort. We had police and health inspectors go on patrol to advise the public against littering, and if you did not take their advice, to fine those who were caught. We had teachers roped in to remind students not to litter. We had fliers were displayed in coffee shops, at the communities centres, at the bus shelters and even in offices to remind people to keep Singapore clean. The campaign slogan even got printed on postal items on mails and on cinema tickets so there was no way you could escape the message.
Happily, the Clean and Green culture has taken some root in Singapore and we built a clean and green home that we can be proud of. Our streets are clean, generally free of litter. We have clean air and water which we almost take for granted except when the haze comes. Every household has easy access to greenery either some plants at home, plants at the corridor outside or at a neighbourhood park very close by. Many Singaporeans are passionately pursuing environmental causes especially the young people.
We have got to build on this culture. We can do more and we need to do more as our environmental challenges grow. For example, climate change. You will remember this year earlier in February, we had our longest dry spell ever. The reservoir water levels dropped below normal; everywhere the grass in our parks turned brown. We had lalang fires all over Singapore and even one or two forest fires in the nature reserve. Fortunately, our lives were not disrupted because we ran our desalination plants at 100 percent and we increased our NEWater output to meet our needs. First of all we had desalination plants and we had NEWater plants, and that is why we could respond. We did not have to ration water as we have planned for a margin of safety, so we endured the draught and eventually the rains came and Singapore became green again. But we cannot become complacent because climate is changing. I think we can expect more such extreme episodes, more draughts, more heavy rains at different times, and we must be able to cope with it.
SUSTAINABLE SINGAPORE BLUEPRINT 2015 (SSB2015)
Happily, many Singaporeans have come forward to share their ideas on how we can build on this Clean and Green Singapore and cope with future challenges.
We have taken their inputs from almost 6,000 Singaporeans who have contributed their ideas in the public consultation exercise to draft a Sustainable Singapore Blueprint for 2015 – which we are launching today. The blueprint is our collective vision of making Singapore a cleaner and greener home
SSB2015 has many exciting plans in it but let me just give you a flavour of what it focuses on. First, we will build “eco-smart” endearing towns, where our homes will be smarter and greener. What does that mean, smarter and greener? It means you have got sensors to switch the lights off when you are not in the room or maybe when you have gone to sleep. We will have solar panels to power the common facilities and in the new HDB estates, we will have waste transported by vacuum tubes suction underground in pipes instead of having the garbage bins, trolleys and trucks going around the town.
Secondly, we will aim for a “Car-Lite Singapore” by promoting and developing other modes of transport, making them convenient. We have to rely less on cars on the roads because we cannot keep on building roads – more roads for more cars. So we will provide more options for Singaporeans that are better than cars. Buses, more of course. Expanding the MRT network – that is happening everyday – but also other modes of transport for example, bicycling. It is something we have not made enough use of in Singapore but I think we can do more. I visited Copenhagen one year for the climate Change Conference. It was in December 2009. Deep December it gets dark at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and at night at 7 o’clock it is dark, snowing, below freezing and people are going around, going about their business riding bicycles, wrapped up warmly but cycling on the roads. It is just their way of life. So if the Danes can do that in winter, I think we can do that in the tropics. Why can they do that? Well, they are tough people but also they made their city bicycling-friendly. So they have got bike lanes, tracks, infrastructure, they have got the norms,cars have regard to the bicycles and give way to the bicycles. I think we have to learn from these examples and apply them progressively and we should pilot the ideas so we can see how we can get them to work in Singapore and if they work we can proliferate them. So we need to start with a couple of towns. Minister is a great enthusiast and he has been persuading the Ministers to take up the challenge and to proceed so we are going to start – I put my hand up –with Ang Mo Kio. Of course Tampines has already been trying out as a cycling town so we will have two pilot towns and we will get it to work and iron out the bugs; I do not mean real insects, only the problems, and then we would be able to do it more conveniently in a lots of other parts of Singapore. To cycle from Ang Mo Kio to the CBD is a bit far, may or may not be practical for everybody but to cycle within the town to the MRT station and catch a train, and have a convenient train, I think that is quite doable and a lot more people can do that and find it a good way to commute to work.
So I think we have to promote non usage of cars but even for cars we have to find ways to use them more efficiently so that we can use the car without feeling like we have to own a car and therefore without having to park a car downstairs in some HDB carpark, which is always not enough and not close enough. You can do car-sharing. There are all sorts of apps now, there is Uber, there is going to be Lyft, other ways will come but there are also driverless vehicles that will move itself around and we are already testing them at the Jurong Lake District. All you need to do is to call it, it will come, and you will be driven around and you do your SMS or whatever you are doing on your handphone while being driven and you will not be fined. I think we should take this seriously. We want a solution in Singapore where the roads are clear, where there are many alternatives for people travel, and to travel in a green and sustainable, efficient and convenient way.
Thirdly, we strive to become a “zero waste” nation. This is a tall order because we generate a lot of waste and we continue to do it at an astonishing rate. Every year now, we generate nearly 8 million tonnes of waste so you calculate that there are only 5.5 million people in Singapore so each one of us produces 1.5 tonnes of waste. I think we are quite powerful. We have to do better and as Vivian says, if you keep on going like this Pulau Semakau will soon fill up and we will have Bukit Semakau and then we will not know what we are going to do, then we will have Gunung Semakau. So we better change. The infrastructure we will improve to make it easier for people to recycle. HDB will build centralised chutes so recyclables please go and put it into the chute, and we will do this for all the new BTO flats. There is one fewer excuse for not recycling. NEA has long-term plans to build an Integrated Waste Management Facility in Tuas which will be able to recycle more of our waste. I am not sure what exactly it means, Integrated Waste Management Facility, I suppose the rubbish goes there, it is sorted out, some recycled, some incinerated, some have to be carted away and dumped and all will happen in one place without causing noise, smell or inconvenience to any of the neighbours. I hope Vivian, they will do all that, and it will do water recycling as well. So all aspects together, we will have the infrastructure there but please do not generate so much rubbish.
Fourthly, we want to be a Leading Green Economy. We want to be green because I think that is the way we need to live but it does cost us something to become green. Financially, economically, you have to change the way you produce things, you have to filter your waste before it gets into the environment, it costs money. But there will also be opportunities in green technologies that we can take advantage of to grow our economy, especially if we build on our strengths and make a virtue of our constraints. For example in water management, where our companies like Hyflux, Keppel or Sembcorp are now global leaders, sought after and very competitive.
SINGAPOREANS TO PLAY THEIR PART
We have an idea, we have a dream. We want to make this vision come to life, but that calls for a collective effort. 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 do with our own lives. The government will build the infrastructure, will set aside the green space, and will grow the green economy. We are going to commit $1.5 billion over the next 5 years to support the SSB 2015. But we also have to do our own part individually. We can build a better public transport network, but we have to adjust our commuting lifestyles and habits and that means individuals have to adjust commuting lifestyles and habits. HDB can build more convenient chutes for recycling, but households have to use them and have to practise the 3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Together, we have to develop new norms if we are really going to succeed in being clean and green. That is why People are at the heart of this SSB2015, and we hope that Singapore will be an Active and Gracious Community.
I am very encouraged that many Singaporeans are already organising themselves and to do their part. For example those who are passionate about cycling and about educating both drivers and cyclists to be safe, or those who are interested in nature, flora and fauna, the plants and the animals, and are discovering new green trails, or groups that are trying to get Singaporeans not to waste food or others who go on walks to pick up rubbish on beaches or in the nature parks.
We have a blueprint and I think we have enthusiasts. We need to work together and make sure that it translates into real outcomes. I hope you will all step forward – give us your ideas, take part in the activities, and do your bit for the environment. Especially the young people; you have got the talent, energy, drive and passion to change the world. This is your future, this is our home. No one has a bigger stake in Singapore than the young people here. So look around and ask yourself: “What can I do to make our environment better?” Imagine it, decide it, make it happen – we will partner you to do that. Together, we will make Singapore better, cleaner and greener. A home for ourselves and our children. Thank you very much.
Source: Prime Minister’s Office