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  The Straits Times, March 9, 2005
We use less water, recycle more and breathe cleaner air
by Radha Basu

GOING green is a growing habit among Singaporeans. They are using less water and producing less rubbish. Also, the air they breathe is cleaner than that in big American cities such as Los Angeles and New York.

These nuggets of information can be gleaned from Singapore's first State of the Environment report, which was unveiled in Parliament yesterday by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim. The 114-page report gives a comprehensive account of how well Singapore has done in sustaining the environment, the strategies for doing better and challenges that could be a hinderance.

But, so far, the figures lean towards success. A key achievement is the shrinking mounds of waste - crucial in land-scarce Singapore where space would otherwise be wasted on yet more landfills to dump rubbish in. Last year, about 6,200 tonnes, about 880 truckloads, were torched in incinerators daily, down from about 940 truckloads in 2002.

Much of the success can be traced to factories and homes getting into the habit of recycling.

As a result, the ministry is now turning its attention to schools. It hopes that by year end, about 80 per cent of schools will introduce recycling programmes, up from the current 50 per cent. Among the schools that are recycling with enthusiasm is Zhangde Primary near Tiong Bahru. Plastic, glass and paper waste are dumped in separate bins at a central recycling repository and in the school's canteen. Regular talks have also ensured that the students take home the message.

The school principal, Mrs Sroya Jaswant, said: 'Some of the students recycle at home, and those who can't, bring some of the plastic bottles and cans to school so they can be recycled.' Condominiums are also being targeted.

The National Environment Agency has introduced a pilot scheme at clusters of condominiums in the Newton, Kovan and Camden Park areas. Home owners there are being encouraged to bring whatever that can be recycled to bins at central repositories within a kilometre of the condominiums involved. The one at Newton, for instance, is at the carpark of the Newton Food Centre.

There is also less wastage of water. Dr Yaacob said: 'Some 190,000 households have made a start by installing water-saving devices in their homes under the water-efficient homes programme.' So, last year, the daily domestic water consumption per person trickled down to 162 litres from 165 litres in the previous two years. The ministry plans to lower it further to 160 litres by 2007.

Although bush fires last month brought slightly hazy days, the overall air quality continues to be good. In the last two years, the Pollutant Standards Index - the benchmark for measuring air quality - was in the good or moderate range throughout. That is markedly better than the quality of air in Los Angeles where, in 2003, the proportion of days when the PSI was in the good to moderate range was 76 per cent. Figures for last year are not yet available.

The Straits Times, March 9, 2005
$1m for water research

TO MAKE Singaporeans see water in a new light and treat it with greater care, $1 million will be pumped into awareness and research projects. Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said yesterday that the idea is to have 'more community-driven efforts that promote a greater sense of personal and shared responsibilities towards our environment'.

The new funds come on top of the $1 million the National Environment Agency (NEA) received to help similar 3P - people, private and public - partnership programmes. These include projects such as the Singapore Green Labelling Scheme, which grades household appliances on how efficiently they use energy.

Dr Yaacob also said the authorities will give up to $250,000 to community development councils and another $420,000 to citizens' consultative committees. These funds are to help the grassroots organisations in implementing environment and public health initiatives like dengue prevention and pest control.

Related articles on Singapore: general environmental issues, Singapore: reduce, reuse, recycle and Singapore: water issues
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