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Limits to waste output a must for sustainable S’pore

The National Parks Board has announced that it will conduct guided walks along the Eco-Link@BKE (“Nature-conservation bridge to open for guided tours”; Nov 5).

The Eco-Link@BKE is a reminder of the environmental blunder we had made for the nation’s progress. In contrast, the measures taken to preserve offshore landfill Pulau Semakau have been outstanding. However, the landfill is projected to last only until 2035 and there are no more islands like it. Photo: Wee Teck Hian

The Eco-Link@BKE is a reminder of the environmental blunder we had made for the nation’s progress. In contrast, the measures taken to preserve offshore landfill Pulau Semakau have been outstanding. However, the landfill is projected to last only until 2035 and there are no more islands like it. Photo: Wee Teck Hian

Cheong Kar Lai

The National Parks Board has announced that it will conduct guided walks along the Eco-Link@BKE (“Nature-conservation bridge to open for guided tours”; Nov 5).

The S$16 million bridge was opened in 2013 to restore the ecological connection between the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Although it came with a hefty price tag, that cannot compare with the cost of losing the unique biodiversity in the reserves. I therefore applaud the move to engage members of the public and increase awareness of Singapore’s diverse species.

While the Eco-Link@BKE is a reminder of the environmental blunder we had made for the nation’s progress, the same cannot be said for our offshore landfill, Pulau Semakau. The measures taken to preserve the island’s unique biodiversity have been outstanding.

I was privileged to have taken a guided tour of Semakau last month. The corals around it have been brought to Sisters’ Island. Fish that were in sections of the lagoon to be converted to landfill were caught and released carefully into the surrounding waters.

More impressively, 400,000 mangrove saplings were planted to replace those destroyed when a 7km bund was constructed. The mangroves play an important role as a biological indicator that gives early warnings if toxins leak into the sea.

With S$610 million having been invested in the landfill, it was projected to last Singaporeans until 2045. That deadline has been brought forward, however, and Semakau is now projected to last until 2035.

Evidently, Singapore’s waste problem is costly, and landfills are not a sustainable solution. Our efficient waste management on the mainland has made us disconnected from the amount of waste we consume as individuals.

Despite rhetoric on the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), our household recycling rate remains at 20 per cent.

With 8,338 tonnes of solid waste being disposed of per day, Singapore risks fouling its own nest unless we acknowledge the problem and stop our culture of disposables. Singaporeans want many things and convenience is one of them.

Can Singapore, an island with an increasing population and hardly any land, still afford to waste? Perhaps our only hope is to follow in the footsteps of Sweden to reach zero waste.

There are no more islands like Semakau, and the price we would have to pay for environmental damage would be higher than if we did our part to segregate our rubbish into recyclables and non-recyclables.

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