Below are my views on other environmental sustainability issues I am concerned with personally for Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE)’s reference.
Increasing local food production to ensure food security should go beyond importing food from more countries and relying on agrotechnology (or high-tech farms).
We should learn from indigenous traditions that rely on Nature-based practices, such as chemical-free soil-based permaculture, aka food forests. This is to ensure that if global supply chains are disrupted or if a global energy crisis occurs, we can still be self-sustainable without relying on food imports or resource-intensive industrial farms. Food forests also serve to protect biodiversity, cool the urban heat island effect, relieve stress and anxiety through forest therapy/bathing, and ensure that we get the necessary nutrition from organic foods instead of mere calories from nutrient-depleted foods, in order to maintain a strong immune system. We can learn from world history that shows how indigenous communities have been successfully surviving and thriving through self-sustaining, regenerative, low-consumption, high-nutrition lifestyles in tropical rainforests (such as the Amazon, Congo Basin and Southeast Asia) over thousands of years, while many empires with advanced technology of their days, such as the Mayan, Babylonian, Greek and Roman empires, could not last more than a few centuries, despite having been prosperous materially and outwardly, because of their self-destructive mindsets and unsustainable lifestyles.
In Singapore’s context, that means having a fusion of traditional soil-based farms (or food forests) and high-tech farms in Lim Chu Kang and Kranji countryside, as well as secondary forests, such as Tengah forest, Bukit Batok nature corridor and Khatib nature corridor, where there are already traditional farms being managed by the older local folks who grew up in kampongs. It would be unwise to force them out of the forests and let their expertise and experience go to waste while they also become prone to senility or dementia from being cooped up in a highly concretised environment. Having said that, I support having more urban farms in housing estates and on multistory carpark rooftops for added food security, although these should not be seen as substitutes for the need to conserve and restore our forests.
(to be continued, as it takes time to research and write based on the latest available information to ensure accuracy and relevance to our national conversation)
Yesterday morning, when I was doing a videography assignment for a workshop at Kampong Senang Holistic Lifestyle Centre at Block 106 Aljunied Crescent, a loud noise made by the petrol-powered leaf blower outside the HDB block suddenly broke the serenity, and the noise went on for at least 10 minutes. It disturbed the peace and distracted the people from the workshop inside, as the noise penetrated through the closed glass windows. Please see attached video for reference.
I am concerned that the noise might also affect the sound quality of the video recording of the workshop. Moreover, this isn’t the first time such noise pollution has affected me and my work.
On 30 July 2022 when I was resting at the void deck of Block 413 Jurong West community library before preparing for my dinner delivery shift, I was startled by the loud blaring noise of a leaf blower outside the block, as shown in the video below.
The noise pollution went on for what seemed like 20 minutes and felt like an assault in one’s senses, nervous system and mental well-being. It potentially affects one’s ability to function at work or study, and may affect one’s concentration when travelling on the road thereafter.
What if the loud noise affects our rest and mental health to the extent that we lose concentration while working and get into an accident?
What if it affects the quality of our work and causes us to lose productivity, and consequently, our income?
Hence, I would appreciate if NEA and/or the relevant authorities and town councils seriously consider stopping the use of these pollutive technologies, especially in residential areas and recreational areas such as parks and gardens, as they have been shown to have negative impacts on the health and well-being of both humans and wildlife, including that of the workers using the leaf blower.
As I have read and heard similar feedback from other residents over the years, such as concerns for those who work night shifts and sleep at home during the day, I hope that we don’t have to keep suffering in silence and wait until someone gets into an accident or suffers from mental breakdown before the authorities finally do something about this long-standing health and environmental hazard.
As Singapore aspires to be a green and sustainable City in Nature in the context of climate emergency, biodiversity loss and public health crisis, it is imperative that we prioritise the use of eco-friendly, nature-based solutions over harmful fossil fuel technology, for the good of our environment and our long-term survival.
Thank you for your kind attention.
P.S. My feedback was submitted through One Service bot in Telegram via the blog weblink due to space constraints, as I wasn’t able to paste the whole text in my feedback via One Service app.
P.P.S. The negative impacts of the pollutive petroleum-powered leaf blowers have been repeatedly highlighted or reported to the authorities for a number of years.
“Contractors using the leaf blowers to blow away the cut grass and the noise is most irritating. It can heard 400 metres way. Can’t they just sweep the cut grass way, instead of spoiling the only time we can get some rest- on weekends?” 19 August 2011 (Blog)
“It is surprising that the relevant authorities have yet to ban the use of noisy leaf blowers and grass-cutting machines powered by diesel or petrol.
Residents of Housing Board estates are forced to tolerate the noise and smell for an hour or more every three to four weeks, whenever these machines are used.” 15 February 2019 (Straits Times Forum)
“Less frequent grass-cutting can reduce petrol-intensive transport of landscape workers and the use of powered mowers and blowers, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Decreasing the man-hours currently spent on mowing, cultivating, transplanting and fertilising would also cut costs and save resources.” 15 August 2020 (Channel News Asia commentary)
“With more people working from home these days, such noise affects concentration and adds stress, which is detrimental to mental health.
Already, a survey found that 61 per cent of those working from home reported feeling stressed, compared with 53 per cent of front-liners (“More working from home feel stressed than those on Covid-19 front line”, Aug 20).
These machines also harm our flora and fauna. For example, the leaf blower pollutes the air, stirs up lots of allergens and dust, and harms plants, micro-organisms and pollinators.” 3 November 2020 (Straits Times Forum)
“Leaf blowers, as a feature of Singapore’s soundscape, are an assault on the senses. Their noise level is, according to various estimates online, 70 to 75 decibels, about equivalent to the rumble of a washing machine. The sound level limit for residential premises is 70 decibels in daytime, and 75 decibels for commercial premises. A quick search online finds many articles against leaf blowers: they are said to be noisy, environmentally unfriendly and not very effective.” 23 July 2021 (Blog)
“Recent research has linked noise pollution increase rates of cardiovascular disease in adults and even cognitive impairment in children.
We have far too long dismissed noise as a simple inconvenience to be tolerated.
Issues such as noisy vehicles (motorcycles, high powered cars), portable combustion engine based equipment (leaf blowers, foggers) and pneumatic devices are all not regulated.” November 2021 (Reddit forum)
“The leaf blowers emit an ear-splitting, jarring noise that is unbearable to many of the park visitors, especially seniors who go there to get some respite from being cooped up at home because of the pandemic. … As pointed out by Mr Singh, NParks itself has said that loud noise at parks and nature reserves leads to an environment that is not conducive for communication between animals and has other detrimental effects. Is it not detrimental to humans too?
I appeal to whoever authorised the use of motorised leaf blowers to stop using them in Bedok Town Park. In fact, they should be banned in all parks. They are a scourge to park visitors.” 4 December 2021 (Straits Times Forum)
“I wonder if greater community involvement could help. For instance, could volunteering to sweep leaves be an opportunity for park users to get exercise and practise mindfulness? Would this enhance a sense of ownership of our parks, reduce reliance on noisy devices and increase appreciation of environmental maintenance?” 7 December 2021 (Straits Times Forum)
“Issues associated with the use of leaf blowers include noise pollution and resultant hearing loss, and air pollution from the leaf blower’s emissions as well as the dust raised by its use.” 3 March 2022 (Straits Times Forum)
There is room for improvement regarding Singapore’s environmental management, as noted by other observers, such as the one who wrote the blog below.
“While Singapore presents itself as a bastion of urban sustainability, with a focus on technologically-advanced and seductive initiatives, underneath this glitzy rhetoric and fantastical imagery is a development strategy that is rooted in unsustainability.” 10/12/2020 (Urban Asia blog)
Though Dover Forest is a regenerating secondary forest with a history of rural settlements and agricultural practices, it is also part of the former Pandan forest reserve and – going further back in time – the original primary rainforests.
Hence, the forest retains the rugged appearance of wild nature, with naturalised streams and forest-dependent wildlife such as lineated barbets, hill mynahs and raptors, which aren’t found in the usual parks and gardens.
We felt the coolness of the forest interior amidst the densely growing trees and their evapotranspiration effect.
We breathed in the immune-boosting phytoncides released by the lush evergreen natural vegetation, which provides an immersive forest therapy experience.
We enjoyed the spontaneous discoveries of rare or unusual flora and fauna, which cannot be replicated in manicured parks and gardens where cultivated plants look orderly and predictable.
We appreciated the usefulness of the deep loamy soil and plant roots that absorb rainwater and help prevent floods and landslides along Ulu Pandan river, even as we are experiencing more inclement weather brought about by human-induced climate change.
All in all, it is a memorable experience with invaluable lessons from Mother Nature, who is sovereign over us all, despite the self-proclaimed sovereignty of an island-state that endeavours to be a City in Nature.
On 9 October 2022 (Sunday), I attended the afternoon session of Day 2 of the Inter-University Environmental Conference 2022. It is the largest youth-led sustainability conference in Singapore, jointly organised by students from the 8 major universities of Singapore.
The conference facilitates focus group discussions, open debates and exhibitions with government representatives, youth leaders from our favourite organisations, and fellow participants.
The Conference Partnerships Team has kindly provided their bite-size booklet on all we need to know about the SG Green Plan.
During the Energy Reset dialogue, over 40 questions were asked by members of the audience for the panel speakers to answer.
The questions asked at the Energy Reset dialogue include the following:
Anonymous How will Singapore decarbonize the economy that’s so reliant on $ from fossil fuels while we’re shifting away from using them ourselves?
Anonymous how can singapore take accountability for the emissions it facilitates but isnt directly responsible for (e.g. refineries, airport)?
Anonymous Nuclear power has become exponentially more safe and, in the near future, can become more compact. Does/should it have a future in Singapore?
Anonymous Cross Island Line will be built under Central Water Catchment? Thoughts?
Anonymous Singapore is considering nuclear energy. Do you think the market will consider nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels (which are cheaper)?
Anonymous is there any way we can pursue electrification without increasing demand for extractive, harmful mining practices around cobalt, lithium etc?
Anonymous Is there room for nuclear power in singapore?
Anonymous Has Singapore figure a solution for recycling solar panels that are implemented in the solarnova project
Anonymous Why is nuclear fusion not currently used in the electrical energy generation industry ?
Anonymous With Singapore’s current reputation as a massive oil hub, how can we become a profitable renewable energy hub with quick reduction on fossil fuel dependence?
Anonymous How is the research and development for fusion reactors in Singapore?
Anonymous it seems like energy reset will cause a significant impact on marine life, is there a way to go about energy reset without impacting biodiversity?
Anonymous Are there solid plans for Singapore to de-emphasize car-based transport infrastructurally?
Anonymous What needs to be done to mine lesser minerals to prevent exploitaton of Least Developed Countries by Developed Countries to achieve their climate goals?
Anonymous Are there enough actions to incorporate solar into our electricity mix (XT’s not-pofma slide showed 3%), and what more can we do?
Anonymous Electric bus fares are rising with other public transports. How can we encourage less carbon when fewer people are willing and able to pay for public transport?
Anonymous German policy of $9 a month for trains feasible for SG?
Anonymous Will hydropower be used in Singapore?
Anonymous If dont import energy then get from where hah
Anonymous Apart from taking public transport, how can individuals make a difference?
Anonymous Is there any other alternative to making electric batteries? Since it does have negative impacts on the environment too (ocean pollution)
Anonymous What are some of the strategies for demand reduction of energy?
Anonymous How is SG handling the waste generated from the lithium batteries of EVs?
Anonymous Why dont we dig up landfills to extract materials
Anonymous Should reduction of energy (on industrial levels especially) have a bigger role in this conversation?
Anonymous Is SG’s efforts to make the air-con more efficient? Eg, the bldg is so cold today & temp can be adjusted so that less energy is used & everyone feels comfotable
Anonymous How can the government push for industries to reduce their energy use since they contribute the most? (edited)
Anonymous Do you think investing in asteroid mining for resources would be a good alternative to mining for resources?
Anonymous Seems like usage of energy is also a matter of choosing the less evil. In your opinion, what is that ‘less evil’ we can pursue more aggressively?
Anonymous What are some ways the public transportation sector can increase efficiency and lower emissions in SG?
Anonymous Does reducing our energy demands mean that progress as a whole country will be stunted for a bit given that there will be a transition phase which takes time
Anonymous Technology is used to improve energy efficiency, but technologies are also the culprit of carbon emissions e.g. Data Centre, how do we strike a balance?
Anonymous how do we change social paradigms that value and encourage private car ownership?
Jimmy How will we prioritise forest conservation since extracting minerals for making electric vehicles etc via mining has environmental and human rights concerns?
Anonymous are there any corporate governing bodies that could set net zero targets for shipping or energy usage?
Anonymous Another environmental impact of EVS is the battery recycling. Does Singapore have a plan for that?
Anonymous What can MOT do to encourage cycling as a mode of transport, like in some European countries?
Anonymous What Singapore have done in energy reset? what can the youth do to make It better way for Singapore
Anonymous What about tidal energy?
Anonymous There are studies being conducted for the cross island line, on how it would affect the nature there, and it seems like it wouldn’t as it would be built deeper
Up next is a series of talks by panel speakers, Dr Shawn Lum, Mr Syazwan Majid and Mr Tan Kiat How, who offered various perspectives about Singapore as a City in Nature.
For example, we learnt that Singapore is more than just an island nation, for we are a nation of islands.
We also learnt about the plan by the Ministry of National Development (MND) for transforming Singapore into a City in Nature, with the help of community stewardship.
During the open debates at the foyer, the participants wrote their answers to pertinent questions about nuclear energy, forest conservation, and so on.
One of the questions at the open debates is:
“Should Singapore immediately halt all clearing of forests and large expanses of land (eg Dover forest/western catchment)?”
I wrote one of my answers as follows:
“Quality of green spaces matters, in terms of ecosystem services, biodiversity, ecological connectivity, etc (not just quantity), so forest conservation must be done in tandem with the one million tree planting programme.”
During the City in Nature dialogue, over 50 questions were asked by members of the audience for the panel speakers to answer. These questions include:
Anonymous what are the various panelists’ opinions on otters and what actions should we take in response to the increasing prevalence of otters related interactions?
Anonymous The key targets of the SG green plan mostly focuses on green spaces. Will there be more commitment to protect our blue spaces as well?
Anonymous How do you negotiate between building new green spaces (e.g. the parks you mentioned) and keeping existing spaces (e.g. Dover Forest)?
Anonymous How can cultural preservation work hand-in-hand with the city in nature movement?
Anonymous Biophillia is great but what about making this functional i.e. biodiversity value of the space, ecosystem service valuation?
Anonymous Do you think culture can be a double edged sword, and we should denounce certain activities we deem unsustainable, or should we trust it throughout ?
Anonymous Hello! Do you think that planting multi-tier roadside verges will increase the chances of roadkill/wildlife-vehicle collisions?
Anonymous what are consequences of focusing too much on tangible benefits of nature and ecosystem services? good for humans =/= good for wildlife
Anonymous Is there space for indigenous people in Singapore?
Anonymous Why don’t we talk about indigenous practises more in mainstream narratives of sustainability and living harmoniously with nature
Anonymous How is “nature” being defined in City of Nature?
Anonymous What can urban designers/ planners learn from indigenous ecological knowledge?
Anonymous Are strips of park connectors, high-rise bound urban parks, and limited ecological complexity suffice in the greater plan of ecological connectivity?
Anonymous What’s the definition of a park? Some “parks” are just one tree one bench one path
Anonymous Is de-urbanization possible? Why look for nature based solutions instead of stopping the problem…
Anonymous how can we bring singaporean to be more appreciate /self awareness more nature around us.
Anonymous I work with architects, when they plan for nature areas, they ask ‘why care about the animals? They add no value to people’? How will we change this mindset?
Anonymous What is your definition of nature? (edited)
Anonymous will history/social studies in school change to teach young sgeans abt our indigenous roots?
Anonymous Many of the forested areas are cleared for developmental purposes(e.g. punggol for housing) How can these tree cover be brought back in the now developed areas?
Anonymous what plans are there for older buildings to integrate into nature (not just new-build ones to have green walls)?
Anonymous Is there more or less native species in Singapore over the years?
Anonymous Why not instead of greenery only, we can include farms ?
Anonymous There is a concern for animals being extinct in the near future due to climate change and it’s effects. What work can we do to prevent this from happening?
Anonymous Are we going to continue exterminating bees when green corridors attracting more bees to build hives closer to residents. Bee are Keystone species to ecosystem.
Anonymous Otter populations will self regulate, pls otter-proof your house if you want to keep koi or other fishes
Anonymous This building is an example of so much Aircon. Are we making any progress in this regard?
Anonymous How can we encourage biophilia and expand parks while developing and our remaining secondary forests? How can we negotiate this tension?
Anonymous Can we relocate beehive instead of exterminate by releasing toxic chemicals? How can we manage wild bees in a more sustainable way?
Anonymous Will we consider reduced or negative economic growth to reduce the land use pressures?
Anonymous Is there a possibility of mandating private developers and HDB to educate potential buyers of possible wildlife conflict in the area?
Anonymous Are there any plans for food forests?
Anonymous beyond gardens and parks, what interactions w nature will singaporeans have in the future?
Anonymous How big of a priority do you think it is to maintain local biodiversity in its development journey? Considering land use for energy, defence, industrial etc
Anonymous Some spaces are slated for development in a long time, but these secondary forests become homes for many wildlife. How do we mitigate the loss of these wildlife
Anonymous Is there any available effort for sustainable fishing and harvesting practices?
Anonymous Why do we need to exterminate bees when we can humanely rehoming them? They are important to our ecosystem?
Anonymous Can we focus on conserving forests instead of just planting trees, as research shows 10 ha of forests can cool over 300 m, while rooftop gardens only up to 4 m?
Anonymous How do you prepare people to live in our city in nature, including certain lifestyle adjustments they may have to make.
Anonymous Does Singapore can achieve 100% greenery country in earth?
Anonymous Can more people be taken through green spaces and nature on their commute to work or school? For example, MRT lines or shuttle routes going through them, quietly
Anonymous what can sg’s current aquaculture R&D efforts learn from orang laut/other indigenous fishing practices?
Anonymous Why is the EMMP tossed out the window when the development phase reaches landscapers and architects?
Anonymous Other than ecosystem services, can we shift to value the biodiversity in a less-human centric manner?
Anonymous As we become a city in nature, there will be many more encounters with wildlife. How can we manage potential human wildlife conflicts? (edited)
Anonymous Why we cannot stick to nature rather than investing new technologies? By reducing, we can rather not use the technologies like before.
Anonymous Would you consider more co-living typologies to reduce the need to develop land for residential buildings?
Anonymous Is there any recent examples of Singapore heritage construction techniques embedded in modern real estate projects?
Anonymous how do Singapore implement more VIA project or activities to spreading awareness of importance of city in nature
Anonymous But bringng about green takes a lot of time. Eg, to grow trees. Is there anything that can be done?
Anonymous By 2023 will there be more planting over the HDB flats? What can we expect by 2023 for City of Nature?
Anonymous how to Singapore bring closer to children to let them know what’s is the important of greenery country.
Anonymous With more natural green spaces, can there be more danger posed to people passing through, especially at night?
Anonymous Can we conserve 50% of Tengah forest as it connects western and central catchment areas & has critically endangered species like pangolins, so to avoid ecocide?
Anonymous How may we discern between real housing “needs” (eg long term homes) and superficial housing “wants” (eg selling BTO upon meeting 5-year MOP for quick profits)?
Kudos to the youths for organising and participating in this landmark environmental conference. May it inspire many positive changes to be made for our environment, flora and fauna, and ultimately our well-being.
29 September 2022 felt like one of the longest days in my life.
I attended a plant rescue programme at Dover Forest East in the morning, which was organised by Nature Society Singapore (NSS), in collaboration with National Parks Board (NParks) and Housing & Development Board (HDB).
The event was supervised by NSS reforestation officer Chua Chin Tat.
I witnessed how the dedicated volunteers dug up saplings and placed them in bags for transplanting.
After the event, I had lunch with some of the volunteers and learnt much from their sharing of knowledge and experiences in various fields –
from hiking to recycling to scavenging to food security to nature conservation.
Then I cycled to Alexandra Woods for a recce via Green Rail Corridor before starting my dinner delivery shift at Bukit Merah area.
After the shift, I decided to make my way back via the Green Corridor in the dark of the night.
I was glad for the bright front lights for my bicycle and the improved surface of the greenway, which help to ensure safety.
Somehow, I am reminded that when it is darkest, we shine the brightest, even though things around us may look bleak, in view of the existential crises facing us.
“Our planet has been wounded by our actions. Those wounds won’t be healed today, or tomorrow, or the next, but they can be healed by degrees.” – Barack Obama, COP26 speech, November 2021