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SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTIONS TO SPEECHES BY MINISTER MASAGOS ZULKIFLI AND SMS DR AMY KHOR AT THE MEWR COS DEBATE ON 6 MARCH 2018

Er Dr Lee Bee Wah: Thank you, Sir. I have three clarifications.

Firstly, is there a role that the karang guni man can play in EPR and, if yes, how?

 

Secondly, I am very happy to hear about the replacement of energy saving bulbs for one- and two-room flats. I would like to ask how is this to be implemented so that the bulbs are in the light fitting instead of lying around. Is there a plan to get the corporation to come in to help? And for those cases where the bulb does not fit into the old light fitting, is there a plan to change the light fittings?

 

Lastly, it is about anti-littering. I have four covered basketball courts in Khatib where basket-ballers from all over Singapore come every day to enjoy. However, at the end of the day, it looks like a war zone. How will the Ministry help in fighting this littering issue? Can we use gadgets, modern technology, to nab the culprits?

 

SMS: I thank the Member for her questions.

 

Firstly, for the karang guni man, as I have said, we think that the karang guni man will continue to have a role to play when we implement the EPR e-waste management system. They can provide convenient door-to-door collection of the used appliances and, where it cannot be reused, then they can actually send it to the recyclers through the PROs.

With regard to the light bulbs, we are working out the details, taking feedback from retailers, as well as with the community, NGOs and companies who may want to do CSR on how we can more effectively implement the replacement of the light bulbs for the one- and two-roomers.

 

Regarding littering issues in the basketball courts at Khatib, I am given to understand that the North West Regional Office staff from NEA is working closely with your grassroots to address the littering problem at the courts. I think the issue is that there are actually multiple parties using the courts and it is very difficult to identify who are the litterbugs. But I know that CCTVs have already been installed. So, we will work closely with the grassroots to do this.

 

But at the end of the day, I think we need to ensure that people take ownership of the environment. If they use the courts, then they must take ownership and prevent littering. So, some kind administrative process should be implemented so that we can identify who are the ones who are using the courts, too.

 

Mr Seah Kian Peng: Thank you, Mr Chairman. Two clarifications for Minister Masagos. First is, I am delighted that our per capita water usage has just gone down to 143 litres a day. I would like to ask is there a target that we are aiming towards to make it more sustainable and, if so, by when?

 

Second clarification is: Minister mentioned that if we get our policies right, there is no need for Day Zero campaign. I certainly hope so. My question is: having a campaign, having a water rationing exercise island-wide, would this not nudge us, bring the entire population towards this goal and, in the process, also build our water, physical or mental resilience? So, I see a lot more benefits, I do not see any downside. So, I would urge Minister to review this decision.

 

Minister: We thank the Member for the questions.

 

The first question is whether we will revise the target or do we have a target. Yes, we do have a target. We have a target of 140 litres per capita per day, as inferred by Mr Pritam Singh, by 2030. I am glad it is going down, and what we would like to see is that it will go down sustainably and not just episodically. So, over the next one or two years, we will watch this figure. We will put in water conservation efforts to help our residents, our citizens to save water and then look at whether we need to revise it one or two years down the line. But, certainly, there is a lot of scope for us to put in technologies, to put in measures that will, hopefully, get us better than 140 litres per day, as we targeted.

 

Secondly, whether we should do a national water rationing campaign. Right now, what we have started is a school-based water rationing campaign. We started with only about 10 schools. Now, a lot more schools have come on board. And even as we try to do this at both the primary and secondary schools, there are issues in ensuring that it is safe. Basic hygiene is still something we want to ensure, particularly the aged, and, in this case, they are very young. Let us go through that exercise and then, over time, not make a water ration exercise become a disaster for individuals. So, I think, for the moment, let us just do this at the school level first and, over time, if there is ever a need for us to have that national consciousness tilt up again, probably we will need to do that. But not for now.

 

Mr Png Eng Huat: Thank you, Chairman. I have just got a question for the Minister. Water conservation affects all. The objective affects all. And the low pressure that is experienced by households affects only certain households on certain levels of a HDB block. So, for PUB to cite water conservation objective as a reason for not setting a minimum water pressure, to these affected households, it is a bit unfair because everyone else in the block is enjoying good water pressure. So, would the Minister be doing something about this or would be reviewing this?

 

Minister: The professional bodies, PUB as well as the industry came together after the Member raised this issue in 2015 to actually see whether they need to revise the CP48 to see whether we should actually put a minimum level. Water conservation issue is only one of them. There are many other issues ‒ how reticulation will be laid out, the kind of appliances that would be used, the sizes of the rooms, the number of people in the room ‒ fairly complicated. So, it is not just one factor. It is a number of factors. Therefore, the decision of this body of professionals, engineers, the industry, consultants, as well as PUB, finally decided that we should not put up a particular number. It is just not sound engineering-wise, and let the PE set it out, design it at the start, and make sure it is right.

 

As a former Town Council Chairman, I have addressed some of these issues in the households who complained about the water pressure, and it can be done. You have to work with PUB, work with plumbers. Sometimes it is a problem inside, sometimes it is a problem outside, sometimes it is the booster pump. There are many issues that we can try to address for the residents individually. It can be overcome.

 

Mr Lim Biow Chuan: Sir, just two clarifications for the Senior Minister of State Amy Khor. I just wanted to ask the Senior Minister of State whether she thinks that the state of cleanliness in Singapore, is it better today compared to five years ago. Second clarification: why does NEA feel that issuing a CWO is a more serious offence as compared to imposing a fine? When you impose a fine on a litterbug, he pays the fine, five minutes later, he forgets about it, but he walks away complaining that the Government is trying to make money out of him. But if you impose a CWO on a litterbug, you take one hour away from him, make him pick up litter, he will realise better the effect of the litter that other litterbugs have thrown on the ground, and the lesson will stay with him for a much longer period of time and, hopefully, that will deter him from littering again.

 

SMS: I thank the Member for his questions. I am also pleased that he is extremely passionate about keeping Singapore clean. Asking me whether I think Singapore is cleaner now or not, I may not be the right person to ask. I might be biased. Actually, we have done some surveys. We had done a public cleanliness perception survey between late 2016 and early 2017 with 2,000 respondents. In the public cleanliness perception survey, it actually showed that 87% of the respondents said that they were satisfied with the overall cleanliness of Singapore ‒ hard as it may be for you. But it is a properly done survey, 2,000 respondents, 87%. But, of course, their satisfaction with different areas vary. So, they were most satisfied, for instance, with transport nodes, MRT stations, and so on. They ranked that ‒ they were most satisfied, in terms of cleanliness. Areas where they were not satisfied with, which I think we all have some idea of, would be like HDB void decks, F&B establishments, that is, the eating establishments, as well as places after public events. They scored about 59%. So, it varies. I think NEA does work on having more enforcement, for instance, at hot spot areas, and also getting volunteers to adopt bright spots to turn these hot spot areas into bright spots.

 

As regards the efficacy, for instance, of enforcement, as I have said, we couple enforcement as a deterrence with education, and I agree with the Member that we need to start young, from schools. And that is what the Public Hygiene Council and Singapore Kindness Movement have done. If you look at enforcement, for the 30,000-odd offenders caught in 2017 for instance, about 5% are repeat offenders. So, there is a deterrent effect. Of the CWO repeat offenders, those who have done CWOs before, repeat offenders are about 10%. So, I think there is some deterrence. As regards why not CWO on everyone, I think we also need to realise that there may be people who, for medical reasons, cannot do CWOs, for instance. CWO is actually harsher because if it is a fine, they just pay. But CWO, they all have to take leave, they will have to go and do their CWO, and it may be in public places where they do not want to be seen.

 

Mr Leon Perera: Sir, firstly, I would like to thank Minister Masagos for his reference to the coastal adaptation study. I do not believe he touched on this particularly, but could he confirm if the study is also looking at parts of the coast, like intertidal coral reef zones, sands and mudflats and mangroves, as well as the islands like Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin and the Southern Islands. Look at the climate change impact on those areas as well.

The second question is: are soft engineering approaches, such as planting coastal vegetation, if they do not exist right now, also being studied as part of MEWR's plans?

 

Minister: The answer is "yes". When the coastal protection study is ready by 2018, we will see the details. So, the consideration will need to be made when we reinforce or increase the coastal protection that we will have to do over the years.

 

Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang: I have two questions, Sir. Can I ask if MEWR will be studying the issue of the usage of single-used plastic bags further, especially with regard to implementing the usage plan? It has been proven effective in other countries. It has resulted in the reduction of the use of plastic bags, which is exactly what MEWR's role is. So, I want to stress that we should look into that further and to stress also that this is not a ban on the use of plastic bags.

 

Secondly, does MEWR have data on the number of plastic bags used in Singapore? If not, does MEWR intend to collect such data so that we can measure the effectiveness of the current retailers' schemes?

 

SMS: As I have said, the lifecycle assessment study did show that for plastic bags, it has got the highest greenhouse gas emissions and energy used. But on the other hand, other disposable bags, for instance, biodegradable bags which are so-called more eco-friendly also actually have some environmental impact in terms of production. Paper bags require lots of water to produce and, of course, there is this issue of land deforestation. We have to plant trees to produce paper pulp, and so on. Another example with the oxo-biodegradable bag which actually is made of plastic additives that will help to accelerate the degradation of the bag and that is supposed to be more eco-friendly. But actually, because we incinerate power waste, including plastic, these oxo-biodegradable bags will still have the same environmental impact as plastic bags. If we actually place a charge or ban, where we have a ban on bags, what will happen is there will be substitutes for using other bags. So, what we are saying is that because we incinerate waste, we do not have the same issue as many of these other countries who actually land fill directly. But we agree that we should curb or tackle the issue of excessive use of such plastic bags and other disposables. What we want to do is to tackle it at source. So, we will have mandatory reporting of packaging waste, as well as the waste reduction plans by businesses by 2021. In addition, we will work with the VWOs and other organisations to raise awareness and encourage people to reduce their use of such disposables. In our new hawker centres, for instance, we have already disallowed use of disposable crockeries, and so on, for dine-in.

 

Dr Chia Shi-Lu: Just a quick one for the Senior Minister of State. Could I just ask or clarify whether it is possible for someone who has been caught for littering, if he is unable to pay the fine, could he choose to take a CWO instead of paying a fine?

 

SMS: The CWO is actually issued by the court. So, if they are repeat offenders, they go to court and we do recommend CWOs. So, the courts will decide on that. If they are first offenders and they cannot pay the fine, we will look at various ways to assist if we can.

 

Er Dr Lee Bee Wah: Sir, I would like to thank the Minister, Senior Minister of State and everyone in MEWR for taking great effort to address all the issues raised. I would like to thank my GPC Members for filing the cuts and speaking up passionately. And to all in this House, I would like to urge you to take climate action pledge if you have not done so. Let us take positive action to save the earth for our next generation. Sir, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

 

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The sum of $1,304,123,800 for Head L ordered to stand part of the Main Estimates.

The sum of $921,297,500 for Head L ordered to stand part of the Development Estimates.

 

 

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