Monday 28 October 2013

Littering punishment under review: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Launch of Clean and Green Singapore 2014

Also, green plan to be updated to boost growth, improve living environment: PM Lee
By Toh Yong Chuan, The Sunday Times, 27 Oct 2013

Litterbugs could soon face tougher penalties, with a review of anti-littering laws under way as part of Singapore's continued push for clean public spaces.

Separately, the national green plan is being updated to include the building of environmentally friendly hawker centres and cutting of carbon emissions, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong disclosed yesterday.

These initiatives are part of the review of the 2009 Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, which outlines strategies to achieve economic growth and a good living environment.

Speaking at the launch of the annual Clean and Green Campaign - into its 45th year - Mr Lee said Singaporeans have to take pride in their surroundings.

While most help to keep the environment clean, a minority still litter, leave tables at hawker centres dirty, and even abuse enforcement officers.

"We must not condone such bad behaviour, or let it spread," he said. "The Government has tightened enforcement, and we will review our penalties to punish littering, to stop littering."

The National Environment Agency (NEA) told The Sunday Times that it is considering higher fines. Currently, litterbugs face a composition fine of up to $300. Recalcitrants hauled to court can be fined up to $1,000 for the first conviction and up to $5,000 for repeat convictions. They can also be ordered to pick up litter in public for up to 12 hours.

In May, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in Parliament that penalties for high-rise littering will probably need to be reviewed and the fines imposed "significantly raised".

Yesterday, Mr Lee said the NEA is also piloting a Community Volunteers programme, where some 100 citizens have the powers to act against litterbugs. The best way to keep the country clean is not through fines and regulations though, but to exert social pressure on those who do not respect the environment, he added.

Singaporeans could, for instance, tell those who litter to pick up after themselves.

"We must also keep Singapore clean because it reflects our values - to be house-proud, considerate, environmentally conscious," Mr Lee said at the event, at an open field next to the NEX shopping mall.

With a bigger population leading to higher energy consumption and greater waste, the imperative to stay clean and green remains important.

"Let us work together to build a beautiful Singapore that we can proudly call our home."

The year-long campaign's theme is "Every Action Counts" and carnivals, a workshop and a national conference on keeping Singapore clean are on the cards.

Yesterday, the National Environment Agency also lauded 10 "environment champions".

Among them was housewife Elisa Ng, who started a litter-picking drive on Facebook in January.

The 42-year-old picks up litter whenever she sees it in her estate, saying: "For all the resources put in, the place does not look any cleaner to me. We are clean because of the efforts of cleaners."

Other environment champions include Mr Ganesan Kulandai, 58, a grassroots leader who checks on mosquito breeding; and Ms Siti Maryam, 32, a marine biologist who tracks the health of seagrass in Singapore.

MPs get hands dirty nabbing litterbugs
They knock on doors to find culprits who tossed out used diaper and pad
By Tham Yuen-c, The Straits Times, 26 Oct 2013

TWO Members of Parliament have been pounding the ground at their wards for a different kind of grassroots work, as part of a push to stop high-rise littering.

Ms Tin Pei Ling (Marine Parade GRC) and Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) picked up a used sanitary pad and soiled diapers in their respective wards recently, and have been trying to hunt down the culprits.

Yesterday, Ms Tin said in a Facebook post that she decided to spend some time visiting several units at Block 31 in Macpherson Road, just above where the sanitary pad landed last Friday.

"As this was not the first such incident at this particular block and the pad was relatively 'fresh', my Residents' Committee manager, constituency director and I decided to visit the seven units," she wrote.

"Acting against high-rise littering, or just littering, is not a 'glamorous' part of the job (of an MP), but it is certainly important. It requires constant supervision, and the preparedness to confront the perpetrators."

Mr Baey, meanwhile, was spurred to act after he saw a bunched-up diaper lying on a grass patch between the block where he conducts his weekly Meet-the-People sessions, and the adjacent multistorey carpark.

Every Monday for six months, he spotted a used diaper there. Two weeks ago, armed with the diaper, he visited the 11 units in Block 444 Tampines Street 42 that had windows facing the side where the trash was found.

"They all said they weren't the ones who did it, and those with babies at home even showed me the diapers they are using to prove they are not the ones," he told The Straits Times yesterday.

"But I suspect it was a maid at one of those flats who did it, so I reminded her that in Singapore we don't tolerate such littering."

Incidents of high-rise littering have been on the rise. Last year, the authorities received 8,152 complaints, compared to 5,232 in 2011.

But only about 10 to 12 cases are brought to court a year, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan told Parliament in May.

First-time offenders can be fined up to $1,000 and be made to do corrective work for up to 12 hours.

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah had also suggested in Parliament in May that DNA testing could be used to catch perpetrators who throw litter such as sanitary pads.

Dr Balakrishnan said that while it was technically possible, it would also mean a new level of "intrusive surveillance", with a DNA database on all residents needed.

So far, camera surveillance seems to have deterred some. Under a pilot programme, more than 300 cameras have been installed islandwide since last year to nab high-rise litterbugs.

One of the blocks involved is in Mr Baey's ward, and he said the situation is better. But he added: "It's quite sad if we have to behave responsibly just because we don't want to be caught."

Govt to seek public's views on review of Sustainable Singapore Blueprint
By Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia, 27 Oct 2013

The review of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint will involve a public consultation exercise over the next three to six months.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said this on the sidelines of an Emergency Preparedness Exercise that involved some 500 residents in his constituency of Cashew.

Dr Balakrishnan said that as part of the review, the public would be asked for their feedback on how to enhance the penalty regime for littering and other anti-social behaviours.

The government has been pushing for ownership among individuals where environmental issues are concerned. This year, it kicked off its Community Volunteer Scheme -- where volunteers are trained to book and report litterbugs to the National Environment Agency for investigation.

Dr Balakrishnan said his ministry is also looking at amending legislation to establish the volunteer corps of environment protection officers.

Citizens in the volunteer corps will be trained and could even be issued the same warrant cards as regular NEA officers. This means they will have the powers to book and issue offenders with summonses on the spot.

This measure, as well as enhancing penalties for litterbugs, will be among the issues that will be included as part of the consultation exercise.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "The penalty regime will be part of that consultation exercise. Quite honestly, yes, we can enhance the penalties, but I don't think that is the key. We need to educate, we need to bring people on board and we need to get people to take charge of the situation.

"That to me is more important than revising penalties, although we will of course have to do that. However, it will be a public consultation exercise, and we will do so in a consultative way."

Dr Balakrishnan added the next eight years will be important for the hawker centre building programme, with the government's commitment to build at least 10 new hawker centres, and renovate and refurbish 15 centres that were under the Stall Ownership Scheme.

He said: "We thought of using this period of time to engage in public consultation, to ask the public: 'what is your vision, what do you want, what do you expect of Singapore going forward?'

"For instance, whether its hawker centres, or any other facilities, how do we ensure that it is truly green at the conceptual level and actually operates efficiently and meets peoples' needs."

The environment blueprint will lay out Singapore's strategies for economic growth in a way that is environmentally sustainable. 

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