SINGAPORE: Calamity could befall Singapore if it does not start dealing with the climate change threat to its coastlines today and leaves it until it is too late, warned Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Wednesday (Aug 21).
In an interview with CNA938, Mr Masagos reiterated the threat of rising sea levels to Singapore that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had spoken about in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday.
Mr Masagos said that scientists have concluded that sea levels will rise by 1m by the end of the century, and when faced together with high tide and heavy rain, will become a “very difficult problem to overcome”.
The long-term impact will not just be on the environment, but also on Singapore’s economy and jobs, said Mr Masagos, adding that this is precisely why Singapore has to take immediate and long-term measures to ensure its coastlines are well protected.
“This problem is going to come upon us slowly over the next century, over the decades,” he said.
“If we start now, we can certainly build over time. If we start too late, then calamity may just come over us.”
Mr Lee had said Singapore is especially vulnerable to rising sea levels and the country should treat climate change defences with “utmost seriousness”.
He also estimated it would cost at least S$100 billion to protect the country from this threat.
READ: Climate change one of the 'gravest challenges facing mankind', impact on Singapore to worsen, says PM Lee
READ: It could cost S$100 billion or more to protect Singapore against rising sea levels, PM Lee says
GOING BACK TO BASICS
Beyond big infrastructure-level investments to address the issue, Mr Masagos also touched on national-level initiatives to reduce waste production and increase recycling efforts.
He spoke about Singapore’s first Zero Waste Masterplan and how its focus on food waste, packaging waste and electronic waste is aimed at moving back to a circular economic system.
Using the example of water, Mr Masagos said: “We consume our water, and then we recycle it back into the system, our used water, and then we put it back into the system again and again.
“That’s how we should also use every other resource that we have.”
Mr Masagos also brought up how a circular economy was present in times past, but has been largely forgotten today.
“I remember my mum every day will put away waste food and container, and someone will come and give her eggs in exchange for food waste,” Mr Masagos recounted.
“And this food waste is then fed to maybe pigs, chickens … and well, that’s the best way to get rid of food waste.”
He said it’s become “too easy” for people to throw their waste away because there’s a “backstop” solution – everything thrown will be incinerated away – but this is not sustainable.
“We have to stop that," said Mr Masagos. "At the rate we are increasing our waste and dumping into our landfill, we will run out by 2035,” the minister said.
BLUE BINS BLUES
During the interview, Mr Masagos also spoke of how some people commingle waste, saying that doing so renders any recycled waste useless.
“That’s the problem with our blue bins today. When we throw food into our recyclable bins, the blue bins, it becomes something you have to throw away,” he said.
To improve this state of affairs, he called on people to just rinse out the containers before recycling and not to throw food into these bins.
This problem of the blue bins will, in fact, be one of those that a group of 50 Singaporeans in a yet-to-be-formed citizens’ workgroup will look at.
Mr Masagos said: “Should we legislate? How do we educate? How do we make sure that we can increase the recyclability of our blue bins from 40 per cent to 60 per cent, even 100 per cent?
“I think this is something that if we can get the process right, then we can start to look at even more difficult problems in future,” he added.
The citizens' workgroup was first revealed on Jul 17 by Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor, who said that participants will be able to consult experts and be given access to policy-relevant information such as household recycling surveys to come up with solutions.