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Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources & Ministry of Health, at The Loo (Let's Observe Ourselves) Awards Ceremony, 17 Nov, 1.30pm at CHIJ Our Lady Queen of Peace

TOPICS: Cleanliness

 

Ms Tan Puay Hoon, President, Restroom Association (Singapore)

 

Distinguished Guests

 

Award Recipients

 

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

 

            First of all, a very good afternoon to one and all. Let me say that I am pleased to be here today to commemorate World Toilet Day together with the Let’s Observe Ourselves awards (or LOO awards for short) ceremony.  I must add that the acronym is quite memorable, and not at all “loo-dicrous”!  I remember when we first launched the LOO campaign in 2008, we received strong support from the ground and various partners. Building on that support, the LOO awards were initiated the following year in 2009 to recognise any organisation or individual who has contributed to help Singapore achieve a world recognised standard of restroom cleanliness.

 

2          Since then, we have seen 191 organisations and individuals, including today’s 47 award recipients, recognised for their hard work and efforts in advocating clean and hygienic toilets.

 

3          Having clean toilets is a boon for public health and hygiene. As you have seen from the video earlier, we still have 2.5 billion people worldwide without access to adequate sanitation today.

 

4          Inadequate or poor sanitation can lead to the spread of infectious diseases, increased healthcare costs, loss of productivity, and loss of lives. And again in shown in the video earlier, 760,000 children pass away everyday as a result of poor sanitation. This is staggering and tragic. With rising population and increased urbanisation, the provision of adequate sanitation becomes all the more pressing. Being a small and densely populated city-state, our forefathers had the wisdom to understand that modern sanitation is vital for protecting the well-being of our people.  We invested heavily in sewerage infrastructure to make sure that every family has access to modern sanitation.

 

5          What we have today is a modern society with a highly efficient sanitation system.  But we must not only continue, but build on this legacy. 

 

6          Yet today, some still treat toilets as a taboo subject, or when they talk about it, they do so in jest. And it should not be so. Indeed I am heartened to see like-minded people coming together to change perceptions.

7          It is imperative for us to set our sights even higher, and I’m pleased to learn that the Restroom Association (Singapore), or the RAS has been proactively working with partners, such as Convergent Smart Technologies, Adsec Global Pte Ltd, Infinergy Systems, as well as Viso Pte Ltd to promote smart toilet technologies. These include toilet-monitoring systems that would signal when a toilet needs to be cleaned and thus, help cleaning companies allocate their manpower more effectively and efficiently. So you have technologies that monitor the ammonia as well as usage levels in toilets, and would trigger the cleaners to come and clean the toilets.

 

8          RAS is working hard to reach out to and encourage premise owners and operators to adopt the use of such technologies to improve toilet standards and hygiene.  I hope that we will all be able access more of such smart toilets across the island in the near future.

 

9          Even as we progress to build Smart Toilets, we cannot forget that graciousness and toilet etiquette are equally important in keeping our toilets clean and hygienic. By respecting and considering other toilet users, and ensuring we keep the toilet clean after ourselves, we can create an environment where mutual respect and kindness is a norm. Earlier I visited one of the school toilets and indeed, I am impressed by what the students have done – decorating the toilet so that it is a happy and clean toilet. Indeed one of the students shared with me that because it is clean, well-ventilated, they will feel compelled to keep the toilet clean. Can I be so bold as to say that such “toilet training” -- how we keep the toilet clean for others after us, even when we are away from watchful eyes -- is a good barometer of social graciousness.

 

10        Seated amongst us today are many youth recipients of the LOO Awards. I’m heartened to know that our young are already actively working with RAS on projects to remind our community of the importance of toilet hygiene. Operation Umbaka, a group of four Nan Chiau High students is one such example.

 

11        From June to August this year, as part of their service learning project, the girls approached RAS to express their keen interest in helping the low-wage cleaning attendants. RAS linked them up with the Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes programme, and through a series of fundraising activities, the girls managed to raise over $6,000 for the cleaning attendants.

 

12        They also led and mobilised a team of more than 10 students to roll up their sleeves and clean public toilets at Serangoon Garden Market and Chomp Chomp Hawker Centre.  I think we should give them a big round of applause for their efforts. For youths, I think it takes a lot of courage and effort to do that. In addition, the girls organised a carnival at the Rivervale Plaza shopping mall and created a display board for the public to pen down their words of appreciation towards the cleaning attendants.

 

13        Not only did they advocate clean toilets, these youths have also demonstrated how we can appreciate our cleaning attendants who have worked tirelessly over the years. Our cleaners should not go unnoticed; indeed they are our silent heroes and heroines. I am pleased to know that six outstanding cleaning attendants would be receiving the Loo Awards today.

 

 

14        As we work towards becoming a Sustainable Singapore, within the toilet sector, each stakeholder – and every individual IS a stakeholder -- must come together to create a gracious society that embraces excellence in restroom culture. It is only when we work together that we can ensure “sanitation for all”.

 

            With this, my heartiest congratulations to all the award recipients. Thank you.

 

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