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Look at innovative solutions to manage waste: Balakrishnan

Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan warned on Monday that if cities do not manage their waste, it could be to their detriment.

SINGAPORE: Economic growth will be disproportionate in Asia compared to the rest of the world and so too the growth of its waste, said Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

Issuing the warning at the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore on Monday, Dr Balakrishnan said that if cities do not manage their waste, it could be to their detriment.

"There are cities that will continue to grow and be attractive," he said.

But there are other cities, if they are not careful, which "will atrophy or stifle themselves under the load of their own pollution", he added.

"Whether your city is sustainable, attractive, vibrant, as opposed to stagnant, polluted and dangerous, people have a choice", depending on the model that is offered to them, Dr Balakrishnan said.

He said that Singapore has had the advantage of being so small that it has had no choice but to be environmentally conscious from the moment of its conception.

Dr Balakrishnan was speaking at the Clean Environment Leaders plenary session which looked at how countries can grow economically while remaining environmentally sustainable.

The panel included environment ministers from Denmark and the United Arab Emirates, as well as representatives from the United Nations and the World Resources Institutes.

Dr Balakrishnan also noted that long-term vision, detailed masterplans, and setting aside resources for infrastructural development are some areas that governments should focus on.

He cited the reclamation of the Marina Bay area, where efforts began nearly 40 years ago, as an example.

He said: "(It is) the ability to have a vision that goes beyond electoral cycles of five years, the willingness to spend precious money when a country is not rich, to build what some people would call a pipe dream.

"But without the ability to dream long-term, and to invest, you wouldn't have everything you see today. Everything that we have today we are harvesting from the fruits of an earlier generation."

Responding to a question on how Singapore manages its food waste, Dr Balakrishnan said that in the past, most of the nation's table-top waste went to the pig farms. But with pig farms long gone, Singapore is now looking at fish farms instead.

"The fish may be as efficient as pigs in reprocessing food which humans have rejected. I think we will have to look at other innovative solutions to recycle food (waste)," he added.

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