Rope in civil groups to enforce environment protection laws

Fishing at non-designated areas of reservoirs, feeding or trapping wild animals in nature reserves, and trespassing into nature reserves are offences that are still common in Singapore ("Don't let humans be the death of nature"; May 26).

I am heartened that government agencies such as the National Parks Board (NParks) and PUB have been stepping up the enforcement of environmental protection laws, through increased patrols.

It is also good to hear that they are engaging volunteers from the community in joint operations and patrols, such as with Operation No Release ("NParks, PUB and AVA advise public not to release animals into the wild"; ST Online, May 6).

However, enforcement is one of the many priorities of these government agencies, and it is logistically taxing and inefficient for rangers to patrol entire stretches of the nature reserves 24/7.

Currently, only officers from NParks or other authorities have enforcement rights. Individuals, upon sighting illegal activities, have to alert these authorities. This results in a delay, and offenders possibly get off the hook.

I recommend a greater partnership between civil society and the Government.

I propose that members of environmental civil society organisations, such as Toddycats, be given enforcement rights of defined environmental laws.

This would give them the authority to collect the particulars of people who are caught breaking the law, thereby immediately putting a stop to their actions.

This is a similar idea to the National Environment Agency's (NEA) Community Volunteer Programme, where individuals can sign up to be part of this programme, and upon receiving training, can carry out enforcement action on individuals littering.

They can take down the particulars of these offenders, before passing them to the NEA, which will investigate before prosecuting the offenders.

Such a partnership can save resources and increase efficiency by tapping the strengths of these nature societies - their passion and love for the environment, as well as their frequent presence in the nature reserves.

This would allow for a more comprehensive and effective enforcement of laws, creating greater awareness and deterrence for offenders.

Therefore, with enforcement rights given to members of suitable civil society organisations, more offenders would be apprehended, and the ecosystem can be better protected.

Elizabeth Wong Wan Qing (Miss)