Excerpts fron the Speech by Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Committee of Supply Debate 2013 [Speeches]

March 15, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Read the full speech of the COS debate by Dr Vivian Balakrishnan – Part 1 and Part 2.

On Water:

Today, we have our four national taps and we are in a secure position. I can give assurance to this House that we will certainly be water- independent well before the expiry of the last agreement with Malaysia I can even go further than that and assure Ms Faizah Jamal that in fact, water is not going to be the limiting factor. You can produce as many babies as you like and you can build as many houses as you like, water will not be the limiting factor. We will continue to produce more than enough water for Singapore for the long-term future.

The second desalination plant in Tuas will be ready in July this year and that will add another 70 million gallons of water a day to our capacity. In the long run, desalination will meet about 25% of our water demand. We are also commencing on Phase 2 of the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System (DTSS). The DTSS is a superhighway for used water that will drain water from the western part of the island to a new water reclamation plant in Tuas, which will also produce NEWater in the future.

I will also just quickly address this point on the cost of water and the need for water conservation. I agree that water needs to be correctly priced to reflect its scarcity value and that it needs to facilitate long-term investments in this sector. There is a need therefore to constantly invest, and the key variable in the future for the cost of water is the cost of energy. I cannot predict what the future cost of water will be without knowing what the cost of energy will be. But what I can say, is that on our current trajectory and with the hard work that is being done by PUB, there is no need to raise water prices this year.

On Waste:

We have made some changes. We have reduced the number of Public Waste Collection sectors from nine to six in order to improve economies of scale. Again, I am trying to bring the cost of waste collection down whilst recognising that the cost of energy, transport, trucks and all that is also going up.

We are also building a new Waste-to-Energy incineration plant to maximise resource recovery and to reduce landfill space. If I could show the picture of Pulau Semakau, you would see that we already have the area marked out for Phase 2. Again, I can give the House the assurance that we are good to go until 2035. In fact, the beauty of Pulau Semakau is that it is probably the only landfill in the world that is a tourist attraction. Just last December, the Prime Minister himself went there and if you go to his Facebook page, you will find some beautiful pictures of that site. So the point is, it can be done, it will be there for the long term and it can be beautiful at the same time.

Our recycling rate in households, to be honest, is still not good enough. In fact, in survey after survey, people have said they want to recycle but for some reason, this is not translated into practice. We will continue to make recycling facilities more convenient for households by enhancing recycling infrastructure in neighbourhoods. In some new HDB flats, we have even tried to pilot projects with dual-refuse and recycling chutes in order to make it more convenient, and some early data shows that this perhaps may increase recycling rates.

On Energy and Climate Change:

We will continue to work with companies, incentivise them and provide schemes such as the Grant for Energy Efficient Technologies (GREET) as well as extending the Singapore Certified Energy Manager training grant. All those will enhance capability and technology.

The Mandatory Energy Labelling Scheme (MELS) and the Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) have been very effective in expanding the range of higher energy-efficient appliances on the market and making them more affordable. Quite frankly, people will save money in the medium to long run if they buy more energy-efficient appliances, whether it is air- conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines and the like. We also need to encourage people to look beyond the initial sticker price to the total cost of ownership.

You ask whether we are worried about rising sea levels. Yes, we are. We are anticipating that it could go up by anywhere between 60cm to a metre, and beyond. And that is why last year, we changed our platform levels for all reclaimed land – we added another metre. So all reclaimed land now will be at least 2.25 metres above the highest-recorded sea level. This is buying insurance for the future. If it does not happen, treat it as a sandbag. If it does happen, we will prepare, and we have to prepare to adapt faster, and be aware of what is going on in science.

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