Sustainability in Cities: Discussions on the Future of Water, Energy and Environment in Singapore

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With sustainability and climate change growing as pressing issues for many nations and cities alike, students of SUTD’s Master of Urban Science, Policy and Planning were fortunate to have Mr Albert Chua, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, share his rich insights. Specifically, he spoke on the topic of sustaining Singapore’s future – as part of the ‘Smart Global City: Leadership and Planning in Singapore’ module taught by Professor Chan Heng Chee, concurrently Chair of SUTD’s Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities.

Mr Albert Chua (first row, third from the right) beside Professor Lim Sun Sun, with our Master of Urban Science, Policy and Planning students

Mr Chua elaborated on the growth model that Singapore’s sustainable development hinges upon, which seeks to build clean and green and city, a liveable and sustainable home as well as securing a robust and innovative economy. Indeed, Singapore prides itself as being one of the leaders in climate action, prioritising low carbon emissions and clean air along with active participation in international and regional efforts such as the 2018 International Climate Negotiations.

Apart from these efforts, Singapore has also been working toward establishing a smart and sustainable water system. From the building of water catchment areas to investing in other resilient water streams, it aims to close the water loop for the needs of future generations. The city-state is also striving to become a zero-waste nation, aiming to become a circular economy where resources and waste are carefully managed in a sustainable manner to ensure liveable and endearing homes for its citizens.

Mr Albert Chua sharing on the existing citizen outreach programmes that are aimed at encouraging recycling and management of food waste at the community level

Addressing a student’s question on the role of citizens in environmental protection, Mr Chua answered candidly that active citizenry is key, especially with ‘sustainability being a journey without an end’. The government, for example, has already introduced the Pneumatic Waste Conveyance System in public housing to make waste disposal more convenient and clean for its citizens, which will be sorted out later for waste incineration and burial. However, this efficient system may create dependency on the state, even though more can be done by citizens to reduce or even separate waste to better facilitate recycling and the potential recovery of materials.

On this note, Mr Chua concluded his talk by stressing that the government is working towards mainstreaming sustainability to building a better world by design – where the public sector sets the tone for others to follow, while community outreach programmes and research are targeted at raising awareness and educating citizens so that everyone can do their part in sustaining the future of Singapore. In short, it’s all hands on deck to build a more environmentally sustainable Singapore!

-This article is written by PhD student Suhaila Binte Zainal Shah.-