Parliament Q&A

Oral reply by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, to Parliamentary Questions on High-Rise Littering on 3 September 2019

TOPICS: Cleanliness

Question by Er Dr Lee Bee Wah: To ask the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (a) in the past year, how many reports from the public have been received and how many of such reports have resulted in prosecution of the culprit on environmental issues such as littering and dumping; (b) what is the standard protocol for NEA to handle such reports; and (c) when the identity of the perpetrator is known, how long will enforcement action take.

Question by Mr Gan Thiam Poh: To ask the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (a) since the deployment of surveillance cameras by NEA to address the high-rise littering problem, how many of those caught were repeat offenders; and (b) whether the Ministry will look into further measures to deter such offences and explore further use of technology to bring such offenders to task.

Question by Mr Desmond Choo: To ask the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (a) whether the Ministry can provide an update on the trend of high-rise littering over the last three years; (b) how effective have NEA's enforcement actions been in arresting the culprits; and (c) whether there are plans to further improve the high-rise littering situation.

Question by Mr Liang Eng Hwa: To ask the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (a) whether the situation of high-rise littering in housing estates has worsened; and (b) whether there can be a greater deterrence if the public is able to report and submit visual evidence to NEA similar to how the public can now report errant PMD users.

Answer by SMS:

1     The National Environment Agency (NEA) received about 26,000 and 2,700 reports of littering and indiscriminate disposal of bulky items in public places respectively in 2018.

2     Enforcement action is taken when there is substantiated evidence. To this end, NEA first assesses whether sufficient leads are available from the feedback before investigating further. As part of the investigation process, NEA may interview witnesses and suspects, and conduct stakeouts and patrols to identify the offender and ascertain culpability. Cameras may also be deployed, where feasible, to monitor the situation and aid investigations. Once sufficient evidence against the offender is collected, enforcement action will be taken. Depending on the complexity of the case and the response time of the feedback provider and suspected offender, this process generally takes between 10 weeks to 6 months for most cases.

3     In 2018, NEA took about 39,000 enforcement actions against littering in public places, and another 30 for the unlawful disposal of bulky items in public places.

4     To the members’ questions on high-rise littering in particular, more than 7,700 reports of such offences were made to the NEA between 2016 and 2018. These figures have remained relatively stable over the past few years, hovering between 2,300 to 2,800 each year. In most cases, the situation improved following outreach efforts conducted by NEA, Town Councils, and grassroots organisations to caution residents against committing such acts.

5     However, there are some who persist with such inconsiderate acts despite our education efforts. To address this, NEA has since 2012 deployed surveillance cameras with video analytics to catch offenders in the act. These cameras have contributed significantly to improving NEA’s enforcement effort. Between August 2012 and December 2018, more than 2,200 offenders were caught for high-rise littering, of whom 52 were repeat offenders.

6     Stiff penalties are in place to deter high-rise littering. First-time offenders can be fined up to $2,000 for each offence, while recalcitrant offenders face fines of up to $10,000 or Corrective Work Order (CWO) in addition to, or in lieu of, a fine upon conviction. Last year, about 2,600 CWOs were issued. Since May this year, NEA has also introduced standees with CWO-related information during CWO sessions and revamped the design of the CWO vest which offenders don to raise public awareness about CWO, increasing the deterrent effect.

7     The public can report high-rise littering offences through various channels. Members of the public can call NEA’s hotline or submit information or evidence of an offence such as photos and video footage through the myENV mobile application.

8     While we have laws to deter littering and other environmental offences, it is more important that we foster collective responsibility for our environment and cultivate positive social norms. To this end, the NEA has been working closely with the Public Hygiene Council and partners of the “Keep Singapore Clean” movement to inculcate the habit of keeping our homes and neighbourhoods clean. Significant resources are devoted to engaging a wide range of stakeholders, including residents, schools, communities, private and public organisations, as well as foreign workers. Many of them conduct ground-up activities such as litter-picking activities, beach and park clean-ups, and cleaner appreciation days, reflecting the whole-of-society approach needed to keep our public places clean. Residents should also bin their litter properly, and contact their Town Councils for assistance in disposing of bulky waste items if they are staying in public estates.

9     The Government will continue with our efforts to develop greater environmental stewardship, but we cannot do it alone. Every one of us must do our part to keep Singapore a clean, green, and sustainable home for our future generations.

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