More community gardens, opportunities to participate in green initiatives for East Coast residents

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat at a workshop on how to plant edibles, during the inaugural East Coast Green Festival on Nov 29, 2020.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat at a workshop on how to plant edibles, during the inaugural East Coast Green Festival on Nov 29, 2020.PHOTO: PEOPLE'S ASSOCIATION

SINGAPORE - Residents of East Coast GRC can look forward to more green spaces and also opportunities to take part in initiatives which protect the environment, under a new plan launched on Sunday (Nov 29).

The East Coast Sustainability and Greenery Plan aims to create more platforms to educate residents on environmental issues, and encourage those who are passionate about the environment to take action.

Efforts to inject greenery into community spaces and the built environment will also be stepped up.

Unveiling the blueprint on Facebook Live on Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat noted that climate change and rising sea levels would threaten the very existence of a small island like Singapore.

Mr Heng, who is an MP for East Coast GRC, said it is important for East Coast GRC - an area with rich biodiversity, beaches and coastal areas - to play its part in preserving the environment.

He added that the East Coast GRC team aims to partner residents in coming up with ideas for new green initiatives in the constituency.

"I'm very happy to see so many of our residents who are very passionate, and who are stepping forward to share their ideas on how we can move towards building a greener East Coast.

"This is very much in the spirit of Singapore Together, where people with similar ideas come together and do something to realise those ideas," he said.

The Singapore Together movement was started by Mr Heng and his team of fourth-generation political leaders in 2019 to give citizens a bigger say in policymaking.

Such efforts are already underway, he noted, with residents coming up ideas to spruce up community spaces during a recent East Coast Conversations dialogue session.

For example, some suggested turning under-utilised spaces into neighbourhood parks.

One idea that has taken root is the Green Ambassador scheme, which was kicked off in October. It now has a pilot batch of 20 ambassadors, with plans in place to train up to 300 ambassadors over three years.

Residents at an earlier dialogue had mooted the idea to get volunteers as ambassadors, to boost awareness of environmental issues in the community.

At the same launch, the other East Coast GRC MPs - Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Maliki Osman, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office and for National Development Tan Kiat How, Ms Jessica Tan and Ms Cheryl Chan - elaborated on the sustainability and greenery plan.

They said the plan is to grow the number of community gardens beyond the existing 130 in the constituency, and to introduce new therapeutic gardens, which promote interaction with nature and improve the mental well-being of visitors by helping them to destress.

Community centres will also have areas called "Our Green Spaces', which will provide facilities for residents to conveniently recycle items, including having "reverse" vending machines which accept plastic and aluminium drink containers and then dispense discount vouchers.

This is already being piloted at lifestyle hub Heartbeat @ Bedok, with another set up at Bedok Community Centre in three to four months.

Residents will also be encouraged to garden along the corridors of their Housing Board blocks, with 500 gardening kits distributed to households earlier this month and another 500 to be given out in the coming months.

They will also have opportunities to document, conserve and enhance natural habitats in East Coast, said the MPs.

Project coordinator Angeline Lim, a Simei resident, signed up to be a green ambassador around September.

The 34-year-old and her fellow ambassadors have attended meetings on Zoom to brainstorm ideas on making their estates more green and sustainable.

Ms Lim said that she has picked up useful tips on how to protect the environment through these sessions, and will be passing them on.

"For instance, not everyone may know that certain plastics that have been contaminated with food waste cannot be recycled. These are things I can share with my parents, parents-in-laws, and my peers," she added.