Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Launch of Clean and Green Singapore 2021 on 21 November 2021.
Good morning everyone.
Ahead of the launch of Clean and Green Singapore 2021, I decided to make a trip to the summit of Mount Faber.
Behind me is a special raintree. It was planted by one of Singapore’s founding fathers, Dr Goh Keng Swee, 50 years ago at the first Tree Planting Day in 1971, when he led the community in planting trees.
Tree planting was part of the greening movement launched by Mr Lee Kuan Yew in the 1960s.
Over the years, it has become a cherished national tradition. It has also evolved and expanded into the Clean and Green Singapore movement, which we are launching today.
When Dr Goh planted this tree in 1971, Singapore was in a fight for survival.
That year, most of the British troops in Singapore had pulled out, resulting in the loss of many local jobs. We faced many other daunting challenges.
But our founding leaders believed that transforming a polluted city with dirty rivers into a clean and green oasis would show the world our determination to succeed.
Turning our nation into a clean and green city became a national priority. As a small city state, we carefully balanced our developmental needs with nature conservation.
We embarked on not just tree-planting, but also other major efforts like the creation of parks and green spaces, conserving our key native flora and fauna, and the clean-up of the Singapore River.
This is why we now enjoy a beautiful home, which we are transforming into a “City in Nature”.
Our green spaces are sometimes taken for granted. But during this pandemic, many Singaporeans have rediscovered them.
As overseas travel became less accessible, our parks and nature reserves welcomed many more visitors, and many have benefitted from the positive effects of nature on their health and well-being.
Personally, my wife and I also enjoy taking strolls in our parks and nature reserves. It is wonderful that more of us are out appreciating the remarkable biodiversity around us, with surprise encounters with Otters or even Mousedeer!
While we have done well so far, there are new challenges ahead. Climate change is an urgent crisis for the world.
At the first Tree Planting Day in 1971, Singapore’s average annual temperature was around 26°C. Last year, it was 28°C.
Around the world, we are seeing extreme weather events, including floods, droughts, and heat waves. In Singapore, we too have seen more intense rainfall in recent years.
Earlier this year, we launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030, which sets out our national roadmap towards sustainable development. We are taking concrete action.
For example, by 2030, we will reduce energy consumption in HDB towns by 15%, through smart LED lighting and other technologies. At least 20% of our schools will be carbon neutral. The large majority of new buildings will be Super Low Energy buildings.
We are also expanding our network of green spaces by adding over 130 hectares of new parks, intensifying the greening in existing parks, and strengthening connectivity between our green spaces.
I have touched on some aspects of the Green Plan. There are many more. I encourage you to find out more and get involved.
To Green, To Reduce, To Clean
If each one of us step forward to contribute, we will be able to broaden and deepen the Clean and Green movement.
The saplings planted 50 years ago have grown into beautiful trees, with broad canopies and deep roots.
In the same way, the Clean and Green movement can continue to broaden and deepen in the years ahead.
How do we do so? Each one of us can do something – to green, to reduce, and to clean.
First, we can help to keep Singapore green.
We can take part in the One Million Trees movement to restore nature back into our city through the planting of more than one million trees over the next decade.
For those of us with green fingers, keep an eye on NParks’s Gardening with Edibles programme – 460,000 seed packets of edible plants were distributed last year, and 400,000 more were made available just last month.
We can also take part in the Community in Bloom programme, our nationwide gardening movement. Today, we are pleased to recognise six exceptional garden volunteers as Community in Bloom Ambassadors who serve as our community stewards to foster a love for gardening.
The second area we can play a part in is to reduce waste.
In less than 15 years, our only landfill, Semakau Landfill, could run out of space.
One simple way we can make a difference is to buy only what we need, and bring our own reusable bags and containers.
We should also recycle regularly and correctly. Deposit the different materials in the correct bins, and ensure that these materials are free of food contamination. E-waste can also be recycled at over 500 e-waste recycling bins across the island.
Businesses can play their part too. This year, 169 partners came on board NEA’s Say YES to Waste Less campaign, which encourages the public to reduce food wastage and disposables usage.
A third area in which we can help is to keep our city clean.
One lesson we have learned from COVID-19 is the importance of hygiene and cleanliness.
Earlier this year, we launched the Clean Tables Campaign to remind diners to keep their tables clean and return their trays after their meals.
In addition, we are also opening many more CleanPods, which contain shared litter picking tools, so that we can all take greater ownership to keep our public spaces clean.
Let me conclude by leaving you with a Chinese saying: “前人种树, 后人乘凉”. This means that the trees planted by former generations will provide shade for future generations.
Much like how young saplings planted in 1971 have flourished into a tree planting movement, what we build today will have a lasting effect for our future generations.
Let us all play our part in building a Cleaner and Greener Singapore for tomorrow.
Explore recent content
Explore related topics