SPEECH BY ER DR LEE BEE WAH, MP FOR NEE SOON GRC, AT THE SECOND READING OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PUBLIC HEALTH (AMENDMENT) BILL IN PARLIAMENT
One of the determining factors of decent living standards is a healthy and hygienic environment. This is especially so in a densely populated city state like Singapore. Many young Singaporeans take our clean and green environment for granted, for they have not been through the days when viruses could spread by indiscriminate spitting, when the river stank of manure, when you couldn’t walk a foot without encountering rubbish or dog poop. A lot of hard work goes into achieving our current state of affairs.
It is heartening to note, through the amendments to the Environmental Public Health Act, that the government has been reviewing and exploring new ways to manage our waste. While many housing estates already enjoy a functional and fairly effective waste management system, the area around the bin centre is still a place we don’t consider to be pleasant due to the stench and the pests lurking around the area.
With the new District Pneumatic Waste Conveyance Systems (DPWCS), this problem will, I hope, be eliminated. And, with this system, we also reduce our dependence on foreign manpower to move the refuse, and drive the refuse trucks, amongst others. Nevertheless, this system does not come cheap. A news report in 2015 stated that the pneumatic waste conveyance system costs over $11 million, and this was for Yuhua alone. May I ask if there have been any changes to the cost of the technology since then? More importantly, I am concerned about whether the cost for implementing the system will be passed on to residents in any form?
I look forward to more efficient waste management. However, we should not rest on our laurels when it comes to cultivating good habits of not littering. At this point of time, technology is not sufficiently extensive to replace work done by humans. The cleaners in my Nee Soon South estates conduct their cleaning three times a day, yet residents are still complaining about the cleanliness. They said the corridors are always dirty and they would even accuse the cleaners of not doing their job. In fact, the cleaning of many public areas including the corridors is done before 8am, and many residents do not realise that because they would not have left home at that time of the day. And, throughout the day, residents and visitors continue to litter or leave their bags of rubbish in public places, which leads to the misconception that the Town Councils aren’t adequately managing the cleanliness of the estate.
We can hire many cleaners, and we can deploy more technology for quick solutions. But, ultimately, there are many more residents than cleaners, so if residents do not do their part to keep the place clean, the estate will never be as spick and span as they wish it to be. Even a small group of inconsiderate residents is enough to make the estate perpetually dirty. If one day, the technology breaks down, or foreign workers aren’t available, I shudder at the thought that we will become one big rubbish dump for that day.
It is crucial to drive home the possibility of this unpleasant scenario to Singaporeans. In Nee Soon South, we have a No Cleaners Day every year. On that day, residents go litter-picking with me so they can experience how much rubbish there is when there are no cleaners available, and how difficult it is for cleaners to keep the place clean. Through such exercises, I hope to create awareness and motivate residents to be sensible with their waste.
Naturally, this applies not just in residential blocks, but also in places where people congregate. Often in open spaces and parks on weekends, we see lots of plastic bags and leftover food. I am aware that in some places, extra bins, and sometimes manpower, are deployed to handle the increased amount of rubbish. However, are there more cost-effective and long-term solutions? Perhaps the Ministry can deploy more officers to high-traffic areas on weekends to conduct outreach, and implement fines if offenders refuse to listen.
I note that the Bill will also mandate a Progressive Wage Model Bonus for resident cleaners. I applaud the government for leading by example to reward cleaners for their laborious work. However, I hope that this model will not eventually be mandated for all companies that employ cleaners, especially SMEs, as they already have plenty on their plate, from implementing new productivity measures to safeguarding databases. Instead, employers should help their cleaners by encouraging their employees to keep the office clean. I know of a CEO who once sent a stern email to all his staff reminding them to please bin their plastic cups after a meeting instead of leaving them behind for the cleaning lady. If everyone fulfils their personal responsibility and cleans up after themselves, our cleaners will have a more pleasant job, and their wages will be a fairer match to their services.
Sir, Chinese please. 气动垃圾收集系统能更有效地处理垃圾，让居民免受异味和蟑螂的困扰，居民应该很欢迎。但是，裕华区安装系统的价钱就要超过1100万元，如果全岛推行会需要多少钱？负担会不会加到居民的身上？
Sir, I support the Bill. Thank you.