Environmental Public Health (Amendment) Bill – Speech by Sylvia Lim

(Delivered in Parliament on 2 October 2018)

Clause 5 of this Bill proposes to add a new Part IIIA to the Environmental Public Health Act, to make it mandatory for designated areas to install and use a Pneumatic Waste Conveyance System (PWCS).

The PWCS has the potential of improving the efficiency and standard of waste disposal. For instance, if successful, this would reduce the need for manpower in waste management, and provide a cleaner living environment for all.

The new Part IIIA will enable the government to designate areas for the implementation of District PWCS. The proposed Section 31G provides that when these areas are designated, owners and occupiers of every premises within the DPWCS area must use the PWCS for that area, on pain of punishment.

I have three queries to raise about this.

First, the status of DPWCS vis-à-vis HDB blocks. Currently, Town Councils manage the common areas in HDB estates, which would include bin chutes and parts of the waste disposal system serving HDB blocks. According to a parliamentary answer given in September 2016, HDB has implemented the PWCS in selected new HDB developments where feasible, including Tampines North, Punggol, Bidadari and Sengkang. MND also said that HDB was studying the feasibility of implementing PWCS in other new housing estates. It was further stated that for existing estates, HDB would have to assess the outcome of a pilot run in HDB blocks in Yuhua, before deciding whether to roll out the PWCS in other existing estates.

Yet in this Bill, Section 31F provides that the DPWCS will not apply to premises controlled or managed by the Town Council. Could Minister please elaborate on the implications of this exclusion. On a related note, is it the case that PWCS will not be made mandatory for HDB estates? Will it be installed in all new blocks? For the older blocks, is there no plan to retrofit them for PWCS?

My second query is how DPWCS areas will be designated. I would like the Minister to clarify how Section 31G will operate. Earlier Minister mentioned Kampung Bugis as the first district chosen for DPWCS. What is the basis for the selection of districts? Is it ad hoc, or is there a systematic plan to roll out DPWCS to all districts?

Lastly, I am concerned about the costs implication of DPWCS for home owners. It is quite clear that owners of premises will have to incur significant costs to make their properties PWCS-ready. The proposed Section 31L will empower the Director-General of Public Health to impose requirements on home owners to retrofit existing building infrastructure, maintain and operate certain internal assets, to connect these up to refuse pipeline networks etc. The proposed Sections 31M and 31N refer to new connection charges and tariff charges.

Can the government give any indication as to the expected cost of the mandatory DPCWS to existing home owners? How much of a burden will this impose on smaller condominiums, which do not enjoy economies of scale? In the case of condominiums, there may be particular difficulties when strata title owners do not agree to contribute more monies to fund the retrofitting and other costs required eg if there is an impending en bloc sale. How would the Government handle such a situation?