Getting green groups to make common cause

Student Ho Xiang Tian says boosting recycling rates could be a goal which green groups could work together on.
Student Ho Xiang Tian says boosting recycling rates could be a goal which green groups could work together on.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Student sets up platform for advocates to work together

Environmental awareness is growing in Singapore, if the number of groups promoting the green cause is anything to go by.

As of February, there were at least 146 non-governmental and non-profit organisations, websites and green groups, according to the latest Singapore Green Landscape report compiled by consultancy Green Future Solutions.

Each one champions a different environmental cause, from biodiversity conservation to animal welfare to keeping the streets and waterways of Singapore clean.

However, a young advocate now hopes to get the different groups to work together, so as to effect greater environmental change.

In June, Singapore Polytechnic student Ho Xiang Tian, 19, created the Singapore Environment Networking Group on Facebook, with the aim of connecting all environmental groups and individuals interested in green issues.

FORGING A COMMON GOAL

It got me thinking... what if all the green groups in Singapore had a common goal?

MR HO XIANG TIAN, Singapore Polytechnic student

"This will provide a common platform for everyone to communicate and work on common environmental goals," he said.

Boosting recycling rates could be one such goal, he added.

Last year, the domestic recycling rate fell to 19 per cent, from 22 per cent in 2010. The overall rate also fell by 1 percentage point to 60 per cent, with construction and demolition waste being the main contributor of recyclables.

"The biodiversity groups could be interested in the issue as more recycling would mean a longer lifespan for the Semakau Landfill," Mr Ho said, referring to the offshore dumping ground south of the Republic.

"Then wildlife habitats in Singa-pore would not have to be sacrificed for us to create another landfill," he added.

He said the idea of creating a networking platform for all groups came to him when he saw how the environmental club in his school worked with its counterparts in Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore and the Singapore University of Technology and Design to cut down on the use of disposables on their campuses.

"I thought that the collaboration was useful in terms of collating data, sharing ideas and seeing how the different groups worked together towards a common aim," he said. "It got me thinking... what if all the green groups in Singapore had a common goal?"

His Facebook page now has 179 members , and has seen a flurry of posts since the group was created.

In addition to sharing links to environmental news articles, the group's members post invitations to green events.

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai, who has been working on conservation issues in Singapore for the past three decades, noted that collaboration between green groups was becoming more frequent, and the latest initiative was a step in the right direction.

He said: "Strength comes in unity, and with more groups coming together, we can take better care of our environment, whether terres-trial or marine."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2015, with the headline 'Getting green groups to make common cause'. Print Edition | Subscribe