I am delighted to be here this morning at the 12th Award Presentation Ceremony of the Green Wave Environmental Care Project for Schools, and to meet so many students and like-minded individuals who share the passion for our environment.
It is never an easy task to organise and develop an environmental outreach programme like the Green Wave. As such, I would like to commend Sembcorp Marine and Sembawang Shipyard for making these efforts to organise this annual competition every year since 2003. The care for, and protection of, our environment has to involve many stakeholders; and I am heartened to note that Sembawang Shipyard’s business partners – oil majors BP Shipping and Shell – are part of this meaningful environmental outreach programme as co-sponsors for the top awards for the Tertiary and JC/ITE levels. My thanks go out to everyone involved in taking this pro-active step to nurture in our younger generation an appreciation for the importance of environmental care and protection.
I understand that the Green Wave platform has reached out to more than 12,000 students since 2003. This is very encouraging, and it is even more heartening to see an increasing level of participation from our schools and students over the years in the Green Wave programme. In fact, I have been told that close to 1,000 students took part this year, and that a total of 287 projects were submitted. I am also glad to note that Sembawang Shipyard has expanded the Green Wave environmental competition beyond Singapore, in order to further its environmental outreach efforts. The competition is now open to regional tertiary institutions, providing a good platform for students from Singapore and their counterparts to share knowledge and exchange ideas for environmental improvement.
I am also inspired and uplifted by the enthusiasm and passion shown by the students in sharing their creative ideas, and I like to believe that their positive attitude will strengthen our confidence in tackling the environmental challenges that Singapore may face in the future. It is also my hope that more schools and students will be motivated to take part in the competition, and challenge themselves to consider how we can each play a role in protecting the environment around us.
The Challenges of Sustainable Development
We must recognise that managing Singapore’s environment is challenging, and it requires continuous attention and effort. Sometimes, it is also a balancing act. We need to make good use of our limited land and resources in ways that take care of our environment, while also meeting our future demands for uses such as housing, infrastructure, and industry.
On one hand, we can be innovative and integrate green or eco-friendly features into our development projects, such as green spaces, vertical gardens, solar panels, energy-efficient lights, water-saving features, or even the use of recycled or biodegradable materials. As a matter of fact, the Green Wave Environmental Care Project for Schools is a good example of a promising avenue that encourages such creativity in our students.
Yet, on the other hand, we sometimes have to make difficult choices instead, based on the needs of those of us who live, work, and play in Singapore. In other words, we may not always have the best of both worlds. How, for example, do we develop a plot of land that will best meet Singapore’s needs? We have to weigh our options carefully, and realise that this piece of land that we may choose to develop as a park or reserve, is also the site of a potential new school building, or perhaps even a new hospital.
Hence, there is a growing need to also consider the fine balance that needs to be struck between the future of Singapore’s development and the management of our limited environmental resources. Very often, the issues surrounding development and the environment can become complex, and in reality, the solutions may not be as apparent or straightforward as we often want or hope them to be. We must recognise that planning for the long term in land-scarce Singapore will most likely require us to make hard decisions. It is something that Singaporeans have to come together and discuss and debate and take into consideration all the different needs in society.
Working Together as a Society
To manage Singapore’s limited resources and address Singapore’s environmental sustainability challenges, we must also build on vibrant partnerships and co-operation across the 3P sectors – private, public and people. The Green Wave is one such vibrant partnership, and a useful platform for getting our students and youths involved in recognising the roles people in Singapore can play in managing the environment.
I am glad to see that through this competition, different parts of society are working together to encourage environmental consciousness. While Sembawang Shipyard, BP and Shell have sponsored this project, representatives from agencies such as the Ministry of Education, National Environment Agency, Singapore Environment Council, NParks, Singapore Science Centre, Public Utilities Board, Housing Development Board of Singapore and tertiary institutions like NUS, NTU, NIE, SUTD and the Polytechnics were involved in assessing the projects. Many of the judges of the competition have been involved in Green Wave for more than 10 years so kudos to all of you for your unwavering support and commitment to this meaningful cause. I am sure the students will benefit from your expertise and guidance.
It is my hope that this competition will not only allow our students to gain an appreciation of the environmental challenges that both Singapore and other countries face; but more importantly, also ignite within them a life-long interest and enduring concern for the environment around them.
Opportunities for Applied Learning
Finally – and I am speaking to the students among us – I am glad that this competition has given you a chance to make good use of what you learn in school. You came up with creative, out-of-the-box solutions, and experimented with ideas and technologies to protect the environment. You worked in teams to identify pressing environmental issues, and undertook research to come up with practical and innovative solutions. You learned teamwork, independent thinking, and the ability to apply what is learnt in the classroom to real-world problems. I encourage you to apply these skills to other areas of your learning, and apply them throughout your life.
Let me just give you two examples of the creative solutions the students came up with:
The team from Anglican High School – which won the 1st Prize at the Secondary Level – found out that in 2013, about 0.7 million tonnes of our recyclable paper waste were transported overseas for recycling as there are no paper-recycling mills in Singapore. The team recognised that relying on transporting paper waste overseas to recycle paper required a large consumption of fossil fuels, and is therefore not an environmentally friendly option. The team’s research highlighted the high absorbency and biodegradable nature of newspaper, and using simple equipment and household items, the team developed a cost-effective and easy way to recycle unused newspapers into cat litter.
The team from ITE College West – which won the 1st Prize at the JC/ITE Level – integrated their technical skills with nature conservation and sustainable environmental development. The team visited the Singapore Zoo in July 2012, and discovered that the existing reptile incubators not only had a poor ventilation system that led to the formation of mould, but also did not allow zookeepers to monitor the condition of the reptile eggs effectively. Following this, the team employed their specialised and technical expertise to redesign and upgrade the reptile egg incubator system. The team made use of a discarded chiller, and introduced a unique automatic air-exchanger system to improve ventilation. They also drilled small holes to resolve water-trapping and remove excess moisture, and introduced a hygro-thermometer to facilitate the monitoring of the condition of the reptile eggs.
These are but only two of the many innovative solutions that our teams of students have come up with, and I highly encourage all of us here this morning to view the rest of the winning projects later. I am certain that the students will be most willing to share with you their creative ideas.
With that, I would like to congratulate all the award winners and participants. Keep up the good work, and I am sure your green ideas and efforts will make a difference to our environment, and to Singapore.