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Concept Plan 2011 Focus Group on Sustainability and Identity unveil draft recommendations

May 10, 2010

Last Thursday, I attended the Focus Group Public Forum which saw several members of the Focus Group on Sustainability and Identity presenting their preliminary recommendations to a group of not more than 200 members of public. The representatives of the Focus Group on Sustainability and Identity included Dr Ganesh Kalayanawi, A/P Shirlena Huang, Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Mr Lee Tze Yang, Mr Tiew Chew Meng and Dr Shawn Lum. Notably, those who stood up to give feedback and questioned the plans were from green groups, advocates for heritage conservation and the elderly.

Here are some of the recommendations as presented by the Focus Group:

  1. Building a Sustainable City

Strengthening our green infrastructure

  • “Greening” the entire lifecycle of a building (from planning and design, resources used, to operations and management)
  • More policies and incentives (and disincentives, which were not touched on in detail) to encourage the “greening” of building lifecycles
  • Include sustainability building considerations as critetia for award in land tenders
  • Encourage more owners to retrofit existing buildings with green features

To promote “green” mobility by encouraging use of public transportation, walking and cycling

    Green Mobility

  • Cheaper fares and season passes for public transport
  • Discourage private transport: Hike car park fees, reduce car park lots etc.
  • Provide a dedicated network of cycling lanes and complementary facilities (I think this is well aligned with this cause on Facebook)
  • “Greening” our habits to become green citizens
  • Deploy an island wide recycling infrastructure at community level to make recycling convenient
  • Strengthen programmes to inculcate a “green” mindset and raise public awareness about recycling and reducing waste

Foster more sharing and ownership of “green” practices

  • Empower the community to go green
  • Grow demand for green products
  • Have a reliable accreditation system for “green” products to encourage “green” consumerism
  • Share “green” knowledge and tools amongst grassroots, non-government organizations, schools and businesses
  • Recognize our green heros

Of course apart from this section was Identity, and to make Singapore an endearing home, where we feel connected and have a strong sense of belonging to. Briefly, the recommendations include

  • Cherishing and keeping the places we love
  • Enriching the experience of our built environment and natural heritage
  • Greater community involvement in shapring an endearing Singapore

Sultan Mosque, Singapore

Some of the highlights to these recommendations also include the introduction of a new Heritage Charter which would be jointly formulated by the public, privae and people sector to guide the types of activities and uses allowed in heritage areas. The need to enliven places of rich heritage was also emphasized.

The first thing to note about this public forum, is that it wasn’t entirely public to begin with. Those who attended needed to register online, and it wasn’t well publicised to begin with. This again boils down to the apathetic nature of many Singaporeans, which is sad to see especially when the Concept Plan 2011 is going to affect us for the next 40-50 years. Next, Prof Huang brought this up to me when I stopped for a brief hello after the presentation. She mentioned that she had brought up to the Focus Group that meshing Identity with Sustainability was not entirely compatible and would somewhat confuse the objective of the Focus Group. In some ways, Identity was overshadowed by the concern over Sustainability of Singapore’s future seeing the number of responses and questions targetted at “greening” practices and policy recommendations. Perhaps Identity would go better with tonight’s Focus Group on Ageing and Quality of Life Public Forum held at the URA from 6pm.

Thirdly, it is important to note the questions and feedback raised at the forum itself. This is so that the public can assess for themselves the success of these policy recommendations, learn the motivations behind them and to contribute to the making of a truly “green” singapore and endearing home for all. A bottom-up approach, if you will.

Questions included issues on:

  • Life cycle approach needs to extend to all products, and not only on buildings
  • Urban farming/agriculture and its feasibility in Singapore
  • Composting
  • Meat Free Days in Singapore to be made more regular
  • Eco-footprint needs to be more accurately calculated and considered since sustainability needs to be tackled beyond Singapore
  • Reduce excessive packaging and mechanical air conditioning

Bhavani Prakash asking the panel some questions

There is perhaps the need to make public feedback available. Today, while I hear that the URA aims to reply all queries and feedback within 5 days of its posting (and I must say that this is good effort on URA’s part), it isn’t enough to make the Concept Plan (and any other plans concerning National Development) democratic and which highlights public participation. Seeking feedback isn’t enough. Rather, it is necessary that these feedback be seriously considered and not be thrown into a blackhole somewhere. I suggest feedback be listed and made publically available to see the level of response to these draft recommendations and what are some alterations to the plans that can be made and compromised on.

If the public has any questions and feedback pertaining to these draft recommendations, click here. Also, to learn more about the Lifestyle and Perception Surveys and the results as represented by the URA, visit the website here. At this point I would like to highlight that the sample size for the surveys were 4000, with 3,605 Singapore citizens and PRs, and 395 foreigners.

2 focus group sessions were held for each of the 5 population segments below:
• Youths (aged 15-24 years, full time students, single, no children)
• Young working adults (aged 15-34 years, working, single or married with
no children)
• Parents with young children (with at least one child aged below 12 years)
• The elderly (aged 55 years and above)
• Foreigners (EPHs)

Also, To supplement the Lifestyle Survey 2009, an online survey was launched on 23 Jan 2010 to gather feedback from the wider public on their lifestyle needs and aspirations. The survey was open for 5 weeks, from 23 Jan 2010 to 28 Feb 2010. A total of 1,221 responses were received.

If you feel that a total of 5,221 responses are sufficient to give reason for the draft recommendations or that they effectively represent SINGAPOREANS views, hopes and aspirations over the next 40-50 years, then please sit back and don’t do anything. If you don’t believe that this is right, then do something NOW. Give your feedback to the government and push for the release and accountability of and to public feedback! Again, click here to contact the URA and to give feedback. To learn more about Singapore’s Concept Plan 2011, go to this website.

Mel

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