Opening Remarks by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at MSE 50th Anniversary Tree Planting Event on 15 September 2022
1 Good morning. Thank you for joining us today to plant 50 trees to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment.
Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence
2 We have come a long way in the last 50 years. When I was growing up, my room was situated near a rubbish collection area. Whenever I opened my window, I would be greeted by bins overflowing with rubbish, and an accompanying stench. We had a night soil bucket system because there was no sanitation or sewage system.
3 My old neighbourhood is now populated with high-rise developments, Singapore’s streets are clean, and we enjoy a proper garbage and waste collection system. When we switch on the tap, we have access to clean, potable water, and no longer need to rely on carrying buckets of water for our use.
4 It has been quite a long journey. So much of our living environment has changed. We are now one of the cleanest and greenest cities in the world. The environment we enjoy today would not have been possible if we had not placed great emphasis on protecting the environment right from the early days of our nationhood.
5 Even before sustainable development became a global concern, our pioneer leaders sought to balance environmental protection with economic growth and social inclusion. I remember the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew relating to us how he rejected applications from some chemical companies to relocate to Jurong. He made the point that even though we were very eager for investments and jobs, having a pollutive industry near residential areas was not acceptable. We were one of the first countries to form a Ministry of the Environment to tackle issues in pollution and environmental health. In 2020, we renamed the Ministry to reflect the Government’s strong emphasis on sustainability and our commitment towards climate action.
6 Singapore’s sustainability story has been truly remarkable. From the clean-up of the Singapore River to fostering a Clean and Green Singapore, our green efforts have significantly improved the liveability of our little island for our people. We made NEWater a reality and invested in our water infrastructure to ensure a resilient supply of clean water. Building on a strong foundation, PUB continues to push boundaries on digitalisation and efficiency. Yesterday, three of our PUB projects were awarded four gold awards at the International Water Association (IWA) Project Innovation Awards. We consolidated the food regulatory and development functions in the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), our youngest agency, and charted our food safety and resilience strategy moving ahead. We strengthened our waste collection, recycling and incineration capacity, stopped the landfilling of municipal waste on our island, and created Semakau Landfill for our incinerated waste.
7 We will continue to build a better tomorrow, by improving our water treatment capability and resilience, protecting our coastlines, improving public hygiene, growing our local food production capability, as well as transiting towards a circular economy and turning trash into treasure through our Zero Waste Masterplan. Increasingly, we see not only the value of closing each of the loops — water, food and waste; bringing the three pillars together in MSE has given us many opportunities to rethink the processes, and to look at how we can bring value from the nexus of these three pillars.
8 As part of our efforts in sustainable development and climate action, we launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030 to catalyse a national movement to tackle climate change and ensure Singapore remains a green and liveable home for many more generations to come. One of the key priorities of the Green Plan is to mobilise and empower our People, Private and Public sectors to co-create solutions for sustainability as part of a continuous national engagement process.
Stewarding the Change
9 We thank our partners and stakeholders for your enthusiastic response and unwavering support for the Green Plan, such as:
a. Participating in our Green Plan conversations and initiating your own dialogues;
b. Joining us to co-deliver Climate Action Week with activities to rally people and communities to take collective action; and
c. Sharing valuable perspectives on diverse issues at our various engagements, including our Citizens’ Workgroups – on recycling, excessive use of disposables, local produce – and the Lim Chu Kang Masterplan engagement sessions.
10 These have helped to inform and refine our policy decisions. You will find elements of your suggestions, your concerns, your worries in the final policy outcomes. We have taken them into consideration. We will continue to partner you and our citizens to co-create practical and balanced solutions to achieve Singapore’s environmental goals and make the Green Plan a reality.
11 Moving forward, we need to be even more collaborative in our efforts to transit to a sustainable future. The challenges ahead of us are massive and complex. No single person, organisation, government or country can solve it alone. The Government neither has a monopoly of ideas nor can we achieve this vision without your contributions. Looking ahead, what do we want to see in Singapore’s future? How should we navigate the challenging environment ahead, with the geopolitical situation not looking any better as the days go by? What are we willing to do to reach the future we want? And what are the challenges that could hinder us? Through the Forward Singapore exercise, we will have conversations to explore how we can foster a greater sense of shared ownership and responsibility to steward our resources and care for our environment.
Significance of Tree Planting
12 As a mark of our Ministry’s journey over the last 50 years, we have decided to plant 50 trees at Punggol Waterway Park today. As the Chinese saying goes: “前人种树，后人乘凉” — trees planted by former generations will provide shade for future generations. Where we stand today is a result of the critical policy decisions made in the past. I am grateful for the hard work that the generations of leaders, public servants, and partners from the People, Private and Public sectors, and our employees have put in to make Singapore what it is today. Similarly, we must make sure that we leave the best legacy for the future generation. 50 years from now, I hope that our future generations will look back at our collective work with pride and appreciation.
13 As we write the next chapter, I encourage all of you to continue to be stewards for our environment and forge deeper partnerships in our journey to build Singapore into a City of Green Possibilities.