Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Launch of Clean and Green Singapore 2014

26 October 2013

Residents and friends

A very good morning to all of you! I am very happy to be here this morning to launch Clean and Green Singapore 2014 here in Serangoon. Singapore has a very long and proud history of “greening”. We were “green” long before there was such a term, “Green movement”. We started our Tree Planting campaign 50 years ago – Mr Lee Kuan Yew planted the first tree. That symbolic first move evolved over the years into the Clean and Green Week. We have cleaned up the Singapore River, linked up our waterways through our Active, Beautiful, and Clean (ABC) Waters programme, and linked up our water bodies with our parks and green spaces. So now we have got Bishan-AMK Park with a river through it; we have got the Marina Barrage with a beautiful lake in the middle of our city.

Staying clean and green in Singapore remains as important as ever, because today we have a bigger population, we consume a lot more energy, we generate a lot more waste material. We are a more built up city, and so we have to work harder to preserve our green spaces. The Government is committed to doing this. In 2009, four years ago, we launched the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint (SSB), and outlined our strategies to achieve our twin objectives of economic growth and good living conditions, a sustainable environment. It was a plan drawn up not only by Government, but together with the private and people sectors. We are making steady progress towards these goals - recycling rates are increasing, more people are using energy-efficient appliances, and I think there is greater consciousness of green issues. We are now reviewing the SSB, to update it with new initiatives - building more environmentally-friendly hawker centres, reducing carbon emissions, developing a green economy. We aim to complete the Review next year. It will involve a wide range of people and we hope we will have your full support.

Of course the environment in Singapore depends not only on what we in Singapore do, but also on our neighbours. We saw the haze earlier this year; Maliki spoke about it. This morning, coming here, looking out of my window, it looked a little bit hazy, but I think now is the rainy season so I hope it does not get worse. But during dry seasons, this is our environment, this is our neighbourhood – I think from time to time, the haze is bound to come back unless the root cause of the haze is addressed, and that is indiscriminate burning in our neighbouring countries. In the last haze, it was Riau in Sumatra. We have offered our support to Indonesia to combat this illegal burning in the forests and to teach Indonesian farmers about sustainable development. We continue to offer our help and cooperate with them wherever we can. Meanwhile, we will do what we can to minimise the impact of the haze when it returns to Singapore. We are improving our monitoring and surveillance capabilities - we have worked out an ASEAN Haze Monitoring System and in the last ASEAN meeting in Brunei a few weeks ago, the ASEAN Leaders adopted it. Now, the next task is to get it implemented, which of course, as you know, agreeing is one thing; actually getting it done, we need to do some more work. Within Singapore, we also have contingency plans so that we can distribute masks and essential supplies to vulnerable groups who need help when such a natural calamity befalls us.

So we have got to work together to keep Singapore clean and green. We have succeeded only because of strong community support. Singaporeans take pride in our surroundings, and we must help to keep it clean. We must not litter, we should clear our plates after eating, and we should save energy and water. Most people do, but unfortunately there are a minority of Singaporeans who do not respect our environment. They litter, dirty tables at hawker centres, and sometimes even abuse enforcement officers. We must not condone such bad behaviour, or let it spread. So the Government has tightened enforcement, and will review our penalties to punish littering and to stop littering. At the same time, we are also piloting a Community Volunteers programme to empower citizens to act against litterbugs. But the best way besides educating our people, is to put social pressure on those who dirty the environment. We have to set the right example – if you see somebody who is littering, tell them to pick up after themselves, and make sure we ourselves do not do it. Because keeping Singapore clean is not just about fines and regulations. We must also keep Singapore clean because it must reflect our values – to be house-proud, considerate, environmentally conscious.

We see many groups who are doing this, and taking the initiative. NParks has a Community-in-Bloom (CIB) gardening programme. It is very popular. There are more than 600 gardening groups so far. There are quite a number in Ang Mo Kio, my constituency; Seletar Hills, often they win prizes at gardening festivals. All over Singapore, in estates like that, we have CIB Ambassadors who are beautifying their neighbourhoods, who are working with their neighbours, generating a spirit of pride and caring for the community and environment we are living in. In other places, we have other projects. Residents in Nee Soon South and students from schools like Junyuan Secondary are working with the Public Hygiene Council to turn “Hot Spots” into “Bright Spots” of public cleanliness. NEA held a Clean and Green “Hackathon” recently, to bring activists together. A “Hackathon” – you spend a limited time, a few hours or a few days, to develop useful mobile applications for your handphone, e.g. locations of recycling bins, giving recycling tips. So we look forward to learning more about these projects at the Carnival, and I look forward to meeting the volunteers and seeing the apps later on.

But it takes time and commitment. We want a liveable, sustainable city; we want a city that we are proud of and we must make the effort to do it. But we can do this, with the public, private and people sectors. We can make it happen. We can maintain where we are, overcome the shortcomings, the places that we have not done good enough, and make it better. So let us work together to build a beautiful Singapore that we can proudly call our home. 

Thank you very much!
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