SUSS Service-Learning Sectors: Environment & Sustainability

Sustainability issues in Singapore: Being a small island state with no natural resources, Singapore faced many challenges in unemployment, urban slums, poor infrastructure, lack of sanitation, and an unskilled labour force. Singapore needed to ensure the basic needs of her people, such as food, water, and sanitation, were met. Since the 1960s, the Republic has made remarkable progress in meeting the needs of her people. To date Singapore has achieved the following:

1. No. 9 in World GDP in 2019 
2. Self-reliance in water supply
3. World No. 1 in Global Food Security Index (2018)

Despite these, there are still challenges facing Singapore. 

1. Waste Generation
With growing affluence and increase in population, the amount of waste generated in Singapore has been steadily increasing. The total amount of waste generated in Singapore rose by 159,000 tonnes to reach 7.67 million tonnes in 2016. The only landfill in Pulau Semakau is expected to run out of space between 2035 to 2045.

2. Food Waste
Singapore generated 788,600 tonnes of food waste in 2015 and food waste recycling is at a low 13%. This issue was presented in the 2014 budget debate as a threat to Singapore’s food security.

3. Lost of Biodiversity and Natural Spaces
Singapore’s original primary forest cover is now less than 0.5%. This scarce area is still under pressure from development such as the construction of the Cross Island Line, increased visitorship to nature reserves and the Mandai eco-tourism hub.

4. Human-Wildlife Conflict
With increased population and shrinking nature areas, conflict between humans and wildlife is inevitable, with the latest being monkeys harassing residents in Bukit Panjang.6 This was mainly caused by humans changing the monkeys’ behaviour by feeding them. As a result of public complaints, about 630 monkeys were culled in 2015. Animal cruelty is also an issue, with 776 such cases in 2016 as reported by SPCA.

5. Invasive Species
Singapore’s fragile ecosystems also face the threat of imbalance through the introduction of exotic animals such as the red-eared slider and fishes from the pet trades. These animals were released into streams and reservoirs and can introduce diseases or cause local species to become extinct.
Despite the focus on economic development, there is a strong emphasis on conservation as well.

Singapore’s former Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, believed that “a blighted urban jungle of concrete destroys the human spirit” and that “we need the greenery of nature to lift our spirits”. In 1963, he planted the first tree that sowed the seeds to make Singapore a Garden City. Such sustained efforts has seen results, with some rare species such as the smooth coated otter increasing. There is more involvement of public groups in advocating for the protection of Singapore’s environment, for example, NParks partnered about 31 groups to showcase Singapore’s nature in the annual Festival of Biodiversity 2017.

Therefore, it is important to understand these issues in Singapore as well as in the regional and global context and understand that the balance between development and environmental protection can be achieved in a sustainable manner.

(Last updated as of July 10th, 2019)

1. http://databank.worldbank.org/data/download/GDP.pdf
2. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-06-13/singapore-achieves-self-reliance-in-water-sees-demand-doubling
3. http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/159000-tonnes-more-waste-generated
4. http://www.todayonline.com/lifestyle/food/singapores-food-waste-problem-issue-thats-hard-stomach?singlepage=true
5. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/changes-made-to-mandai-development-plans-to-reduce-environmental-7910946 (Invalid)
6. http://www.spca.org.sg/pdf/SPCA%20Annual%20Report%202016.pdf
7. http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/big-read-animal-encounters-hit-headlines-divide-opens-0
8. http://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/vesak-day-practice-releasing-animals-harms-ecosystems
9. http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/awash-with-wildlife

Tags:Environment and Sustainability

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