Jan 27, 2014

    Help keep green flag flying high here

    THE future starts now - it is a tagline we can be ever so proud of.

    Ask visitors to our city state what catches their attention, and chances are they will mention our cleanliness, how much green cover we have, the security of having drinking water from the tap and clean air almost all year round, apart from times we have had to bear with the transboundary haze from neighbouring countries.

    But this is not something we should take for granted.

    For example, in the realm of water self-sufficiency, we would still be relying on Malaysia for our water supply if it was not for the vision of our leaders to invest billions of dollars in ensuring that Singapore became more self-reliant.

    As a result of this vision and innovation, Singapore is now able to provide clean, drinkable water for its citizens. In the process, an industry has been created in which Singapore companies like Hyflux are now considered global leaders in water-management and environmental solutions.

    Also, if not for the vision of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who set out to ensure that Singapore was a "Clean and Green" city state to set it apart from other countries in the neighbourhood, Singapore would not have been able to hold on to its competitive advantage of being one of the cleanest city states in the world and a place where there was, as much as possible, harmony between nature, development and business.

    Simply put, we just could not afford to dump our rubbish in our backyard, because that could well be someone else's front yard.

    Singapore's population increased from 3.047 million in 1990 to 5.399 million last year, according to the Department of Statistics.

    This means that the views and desires of a lot more people must be considered when policymakers draft policies which will affect them and their children in the future.

    But apart from just listening to views, it is perhaps more important to forge a common vision and set of values which will be representative of what Singaporeans hope to achieve for the environment in the future.

    Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, announced on Jan 8 that there will be a national exercise this year to review Singapore's environmental priorities, future and projects.

    As one of the key environmental non-governmental organisations in Singapore, the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) sees the need to initiate a series of public dialogue sessions to derive a common vision and set of values for the environment, based on the views and suggestions of all interested Singaporeans.

    This is why, from next month to April, the SEC will be reaching out to a diverse group of stakeholders to gather feedback and, more importantly, to help craft the vision Singaporeans have for their home in the future when it comes to the environment.

    We will be casting our net as wide as possible and will reach out to the youth, the private and public sectors, and the community through the community development councils.

    All in all, we expect to have face-to-face dialogues with between 500 and 800 people, and will also be seeking online feedback through our various platforms. The ideas and values distilled from these dialogue sessions will be key in reviewing how we, as a nation, approach our environment.

    The ideas which we gather will then be presented to the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources as a vision document which represents the hopes and aspirations of Singaporeans when it comes to our environmental future.

    It is our hope that Singaporeans from all walks of life, from diverse backgrounds, will join us to envision and imagine what they hope for the future of Singapore in this space.

    Be part of this journey with us, because the future starts now.


    Mr Jose Raymond is executive director of the Singapore Environment Council.