Stringent screening process for volunteers empowered to enforce littering rules

The National Environment Agency (NEA) thanks Mr Kwan Jin Yao for his letter ("No quick fix to littering woes"; March 11).

While enforcement is important, we agree that to tackle the littering problem effectively, education is still the key means to establishing care for the environment.

The majority of Singaporeans are gracious, act responsibly and do their part to keep the surroundings clean, but there is a minority who continue to litter and dirty our environment.

Hence, NEA works closely with our 3P Partners (people, public and private sector), including those from the Keep Singapore Clean Movement, led by the Public Hygiene Council, to rally members of the community to take greater ownership of our environment.

The aim of our education efforts is to encourage residents to treat our public spaces like our own homes and to keep our environment clean, even when enforcement officers are not present.

It was with this in mind that the community volunteer programme was launched in 2013. With the recent Bill amendment, the scope of the programme has been expanded to include offences such as smoking in prohibited areas, urinating in public areas, and leaving the engine of a stationary vehicle running.

Individuals not affiliated with any non-governmental organisation may also get on board the programme. Community volunteers can choose to focus on educating offenders in taking ownership of the environment, supporting research in specialised areas of work or participating in public outreach and educational activities.

These community volunteers can be empowered to take down the particulars of offenders who do not heed their repeated advice. They will be trained by NEA officers.

For the small minority of offenders, there is a need for stronger measures to dissuade them from re-offending. Community volunteers will hand over the recorded particulars of such offenders to NEA for its consideration to follow through with the enforcement action.

We assure Mr Kwan that there is a stringent screening process in place and all community volunteers will receive training, similar to that of regular NEA officers.

NEA will continue to work with stakeholders to foster the right values of keeping our environment clean. Everyone has a role in helping to establish care for our environment, and community volunteers reinforce this effort by shaping social behaviour through their engagement.

Tai Ji Choong

Director, Vector Control and Sanitation Department

National Environment Agency

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2016, with the headline 'Stringent screening process for volunteers empowered to enforce littering rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe