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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2015

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Summary

The high priority that Singapore has placed on the environment since the early days has endowed it with reliable environmental systems and practices. The Singapore Government spent a vast amount of money on the engineering and provision of environmental infrastructure and services even at a time when the country was poor and had to attend to pressing economic, social, and security development programmes.

Achieving environmental and water sustainability is a strategic goal. As Prime Minister of newly-independent Singapore, one of the first things Lee Kuan Yew did was to give water top priority — setting up a unit in his office to coordinate this at the whole-of-government level. At a dialogue session with delegates of the inaugural Singapore International Water Week in June 2008, he recalled that “This (water) dominated every other policy. Every other policy had to bend at the knees for water survival.”

Attaining a high environmental standard is never a waste of time, energy, or resources. In planning the sewerage system for instance, the government decided to put in place a comprehensive sewage network with proper used water treatment facilities, even though many countries had been discharging their used water without treating it. Subsequently, as Singapore had well-equipped used water treatment plants and island-wide sewer coverage, it was able to harness the used water for the production of NEWater through the reclamation of treated used water. Hence, having taken care of the environment in the early days (at a considerable cost even when it did not seem necessary at the time) has proved rewarding for Singapore decades later. Singapore's approach to better environment management may be summed up by the 5Es of Engineering, Economics, Education, Enforcement, and Engagement. Engineering provides the foundation. Singapore invested heavily on environmental infrastructure such as sanitation and flood alleviation schemes, water production capacity, and incineration plants, as well as on technology improvements and the necessary manpower development. Economics is applied to ensure services are produced efficiently and scarce environmental resources are priced right.

Type
Chapter
Information
Clean, Green and Blue
Singapore's Journey Towards Environmental and Water Sustainability
, pp. xxi - xxviii
Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
Print publication year: 2008

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