“I have always believed that a blighted urban jungle of concrete destroys the human spirit. We need the greenery of nature to lift up our spirits.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, founding Prime Minister of Singapore
From “Clean City” to “Truly Clean City”, from “Garden City” to “City in a Garden”, Singapore has been associated with ever-changing catchphrases. More than just a buzzword, they reflect the different phases of development we were in for the past fifty years and the aspirations we have for the future.
In our rapid ascension from third world to first, we have progressed from solving rudimentary but critical hygiene issues – a key milestone being the Singapore River cleanup – to conceptualising higher-level frameworks like the BCA Green Mark Scheme to encourage the development of greener buildings. The clean and green Singapore we get to enjoy today is a testament to the success of our past efforts to prepare for the future.
What should we do today to better prepare ourselves and the next generation for the future that lies ahead? Perhaps a trip down memory lane will shed some light to what is needed to sustain and secure our position as a leading city-state.
Our source of inspiration
The excellent groundwork that our forefathers have set was only possible with a clear understanding of what sustainable development entails.
Starting off from a busy port and unsanitary fishing villages, we needed better transport infrastructure to improve the flow of goods. We needed taller buildings with proper waste and sewerage systems to ensure efficient use of land and higher hygiene levels. We needed our own sources of water to reduce our reliance on other countries for such an essential need.
Naturally, we had to clear forested land to make way for new buildings and expressways, but we did not forget to decorate them with plants and trees. We had to build reservoirs to strengthen and deepen our water security but we cleverly doubled them up as parks. With foresight and creativity, the previous generation has cleverly and efficiently used the little resources they had on hand to create a sustainable Singapore.
Sustainability has played a key role in the survival of our small city-state and its importance in the coming decades will only grow larger.
The case for urgency
Our population is projected to be at 6.9 million in 2030, rising from 5.54 million in 2015. That is almost a 25% increase.
You can already feel the squeeze in the MRTs: imagine how the peak hour traffic will be like with a 25% increase in population. The suburban shopping centers you patronise are more crowded today than they were 10 years ago: imagine the discomfort of having to squeeze your way through shops and bear with the snaking and never-ending queues.
The fact that there are more people indisputably means that we consume more as a nation. How do we ensure that we have sufficient resources for the future? The problem is not far away and it’s going to be a rough ride if we do not plan early and plan now.
Recognizing the demands of a growing population, our approach towards sustainability has transformed from one that is curated and schooled to a more sustainable approach of integrating sustainability into our lives. It is unsustainable to make Singapore a ‘cleaned city’: we need to teach our younger generations to clean up after themselves. It is unsustainable to create more gardens and reservoirs with the little space we have: we need to integrate them into our buildings and be prudent with our use of resources.
Certainly, there is more to sustainability than just being clean and green. Let’s take a deeper dive into the realm of sustainability and understand how you can contribute to a sustainable Singapore.
What is sustainability all about?