Why It Matters

From cleaned to clean city

Singapore prides itself on being a clean and green city.

While the Republic is certainly a place where greenery flourishes amid steel and concrete, it is struggling to live up to its reputation on the cleanliness front.

Its streets and void decks are generally clean, but this would hardly be so without the effort of an army of cleaners.

As Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam put it at the launch of the annual Clean and Green Singapore carnival in Boon Keng last week: "Today, we are reliant on 50,000 cleaners… We also have our community initiatives, teams of volunteers who go around and help pick up the litter. But that isn't going to solve the problem."

Singaporeans and Singapore residents need to step up.

Going by National Environment Agency data, littering has become a bigger problem in recent years.

The authorities meted out more than 31,000 fines last year, a seven-year high. The figure was also more than thrice the 8,195 tickets issued in 2012. More than six in 10 of those fined for littering were Singapore residents.

If the littering problem keeps worsening, it will not be sustainable to keep hiring more cleaners to keep the country clean.

Also, litter is not just unsightly, but can also cause pest problems.

For instance, discarded receptacles may end up collecting water and become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

As Mr Tharman pointed out, habits have to change, and residents have to be considerate towards their neighbours.

Residents have to take pride in keeping not just their homes, but also the country clean.

Only then can Singapore truly call itself a clean city, not a cleaned one, and continue to be renowned globally for its greenery and cleanliness.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2017, with the headline 'From cleaned to clean city'. Print Edition | Subscribe