Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources Committee of Supply 2016 – Cuts by WP MPs and NCMPs

(Delivered in Parliament on 12 April 2016)

Climate Change Fund – Pritam Singh

Madam Chairperson, climate change and the reality of rising sea-levels are upon us. Just a couple of months ago a friend, shared with me a video clip of how far up the tide had reached, at the area of East Coast beach close to the old Big Splash. Madam Chairperson, with your permission, I would like to show that video clip. Members would notice the waves breaking at the very edge of the foreshore, with the backshore inundated with sea-water.

In late 2014, it was reported that the new Changi Airport was being built on higher ground to guard against rising sea-levels and that it would be able to withstand more than the projected 18 inch (or 46cm) rise in sea-levels. Separately, the minimum level for newly reclaimed land went up in 2011 to 2.25m above the highest recorded tide, from 1.25m.

Early this year, it was reported that Nicoll Drive was being elevated by 80cm. Can the Minister share what are the plans to protect our beaches and mangrove areas, and other existing coastal areas from rising sea levels? Can the Minister update the House on the progress of the Government’s Coastal Adaptation Study that was announced almost three years ago? Does the Minister foresee the raising of a Climate Change Fund akin to the Changi Airport Terminal Five Fund to build a sizeable financial buffer over a few budgets so that Singapore can be better ready from a fiscal point of view to address the very real and debilitating effects of climate change?

Dengue – Sylvia Lim

I am filing my annual cut on dengue, as it continues to plague Singaporeans and my residents in Serangoon ward of Aljunied GRC.

In February, the Government reported that the number of dengue cases in 2016 may exceed 30,000, higher than the record of 22,170 cases in 2013. The main reasons are the warmer conditions due to El Nino, and a change of the main virus serotype from DEN­1 to DEN­2. History has shown that a change in the predominant dengue virus will cause a spike of cases during the early periods. The Aedes mosquito population in our community has also increased since November, with NEA’s Gravitraps and inspection checks showing a 50% increase in Aedes mosquitoes and breeding.

The Ministry’s top priority is source eradication, and I must convey my residents’ gratitude to the tireless NEA officers and contractors who visited estates and homes to do inspections and misting, and to provide advice. At last year’s COS, we were told that NEA had 850 staff in the regular vector control workforce. To what extent have additional resources been needed this year?

Some locations are not accessible for inspection, and since 2014 NEA has been trying out radio-controlled aerial inspection crafts (RAIC) for the surveillance of roof gutter conditions.  The RAIC is also able to deposit Bti larvicide to kill larvae in roof gutters.  Has the trial been successful, and will it be fully implemented?

The Minister has also said that $3 million is being put aside to develop the Wolbachia bacteria to fight dengue over the next three years.  When are we likely to see the results of this?

Finally, concerning the dengue vaccine, several countries including Philippines have registered the use of the Dengvaxia vaccine developed by Sanofi.  The vaccine apparently works against all four serotypes, though its efficacy rate is not uniform.  Is the government in a better position now to comment on or commit to a dengue vaccine?

Food Waste Recycling – Daniel Goh

Madam Chair, the NEA reported that, in 2014, less than 13% of food waste was recycled and over 680,000 tonnes had to be incinerated. This number is only going to grow with our increasing population and given the prosperity of the population and the Singaporean culture of eating out. Recently, NEA announced the launch of a two-year on-site food waste recycling pilot at two hawker centres in Ang Mo Kio and Tiong Bahru. This is a good move, but for an urgent problem it is insufficient. I have two suggestions to accelerate food waste recyling.

First, food waste recyling in hawker centres is a low hanging fruit as NEA is in charge of the space. However, hawker centres do not seem to account for a large amount of food wastes. The Ang Mo Kio and Tiong Bahru markets together produce an estimated 1,800 tonnes of food waste a year. But the markets occupy a central place in their town centres and NEA could extend the pilot projects to a wider catchment area to cover nearby private coffee shops, food courts and grocery stores. This makes food waste recycling readily accessible at town centres.

In fact, the NEA could also experiment with getting the surrounding HDB households to bring down their food wastes to the recycling centres. This will gauge the readiness of households to adopt food waste recycling and allow the NEA to test different methods to get households to recycle their food wastes correctly and cleanly.

Second, the NEA should begin simultaneous pilot projects to encourage food waste recyling at clusters of F&B joints, such as those in shophouse rows or shopping malls across the city. These may present more challenges than hawker centres, due to diverse stakeholders and configurations of space. Therefore, the pilot should start earlier so that there is more time to evaluate and test recycling methods.