The Green Singapore

by Antonius Suryawan on 5th February, 2010 at 12:38 PM CEST

A little country with huge significance. Not just economically, but also environmentally. A lesson we can all learn from this humble small city-state.

Singapore, as wikipedia says it, is a micro-state with only 710.2 km2 large and around 5 million inhabitants. Logically thinking, it would have a very small 'idle' land, and the government would have populated the land with buildings for homes and industry.

But no, Singapore isn't like that. Quite the contrary, through efforts, discipline and determination, Singapore is now one of the cleanest and greenest country in the world.

Highway, a view from my 22nd level apartment

A fine city

The way they do it? By imposing a heavy fine on any rule-breaking offenses. Even the locals themselves often joke that Singapore is a "fine" city, a pun that it is both beautiful, orderly and modern, as well as imposing a heavy fine for even the smallest misconduct.

The followings are subjected to fines, ranging from S$500 to S$1000: littering, spitting, smoking not in the designated area, not flushing the toilet, eating or drinking in the train, and still many more. Although it is quite rare to see policemen catching litterers and fining them in public, the regulations are deterring enough for the citizens to keep Singapore clean.

It is quite an untold rule here that what is not explicitly allowed is actually forbidden. As undemocratic as it sounds, in Singapore's case, it has a somewhat positive impact. The almost-military-styled-disciplined-citizens help the government a great deal in making Singapore clean.

Again, one joke of being a Singaporean is "picking up the litter you missed throwing at the bin". When asked why they give the simplest answer: "my responsibility", "I hate littering", "just feel bad". Littering is really frowned upon in the society.

One of the parks around the campus

Green everywhere

Aside from imposing stick rather than the carrot approach, the government is also very active in planting trees and leaving natural preservation areas. The busiest CBD and shopping areas like Orchard are still accompanied with lush patches of green everywhere.

The government also makes sure that there is enough natural preservation despite owning such a limited landmass. Around one-sixth of the main island is dedicated for water-catching area. There are thick, unpenetrated forests everywhere in Singapore, including one in my campus. Green dominates the view from my 22nd-floor apartment.

In addition to that, there are also other eco-friendly initiatives both by government and the private sector. Water recycling is heavily practiced and is expected to reach 2.5% of total daily water consumption by 2011. Urinals in several public restroom are not flushed with water, but treated with eco- friendly biotechnology cleansing system instead.

Lessons to learn

In the last UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Singapore pledged to reduce its carbon emission by 16 per cent below the level projected in 2020. This move was taken despite the non-conclusive outcome of the conference.

I find it quite remarkable how determined and how willing they are to solve this environmental problem. And this, is the most important lesson we all should learn.

If we want to go green (and we should), we must do it together, by any means necessary.

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Alja Sulčič

Alja Sulčič

Thanks for writing this great article, Antonius! It's always interesting to hear how different countries deal with the environment in different ways - and it's quite refreshing to see a country so dedicated to being green.

Some of the measure may sound a bit extreme, but the environment is after all the most valuable thing we have. And I completely agree with you - we all have to do something to go green, together!

5th February, 2010 @ 2:04 PM CEST

Saad Khan

Saad Khan | Action team | CF Chapters

oh what a memory! I still cant forget the cleanliness. I stayed there for two months and i did not find a chocolate wrapper in a street..let alone waste. Singapore Rocks!

5th February, 2010 @ 3:51 PM CEST

Sayanee Basu

Sayanee Basu | Action team | CF Chapters

Yay!! Visit us guys :)

"Littering is really frowned upon in the society." I do not think we are that serious... but yes, we love our clean city and there are sooo many bins around to throw the rubbish that we don't even need to litter :p

6th February, 2010 @ 3:55 AM CEST

Alja Sulčič

Alja Sulčič

@Sayanee We'd love to visit you =) And it is indeed very important to have enough bins around the city! There's nothing worse than having to walk for miles without finding a bin, but some cities just forget to put them in strategic places.

6th February, 2010 @ 9:30 AM CEST

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