The missing parts of the White Paper

NMP Faizah Jamal gave a great speech during the White Paper debate. She highlighted the environmental side of concerns with regard to the population plan – and this is something largely left out by other MPs, who mainly raised issues of infrastructural challenges, and the need for sustained growth to provide for Singaporeans. This is very ironic, because as a small island state, wouldn’t environmental concerns be important when we are talking about raising our population levels and at the same time trying to ensure dynamism and sustainability?

She mentioned that there is no mention in the White Paper on the possible impact of having so many people on our carbon footprint, and thus with it, what are the ways to deal with it.

She also asked what about the issues of food, water, and energy securities when we have such a huge population by 2030? After all, a small country like Singapore derives much of her resources overseas. Personally, I think water security will really be an issue, despite having the current NEWater, catchment areas, and imports from Malaysia, we still have to consider the higher consumption rates when the population increases to a possible 6.9m by 2030 – not only human consumptions, but also higher water usage with increase in human activities. Wouldn’t this be an important issue that should garner more widespread attention?

She mentioned that the government’s plan do talk about having more green spaces and parks. But she’s afraid that by “parks”, the government means involving “heavy intervention of the human hand in landscaping and shaping such manicured spaces”. And I believe freeing up more land for infrastructural developments do erode Singapore’s natural landscape. I think surely being a liveable, lively and lovely city state that we want Singapore to become by 2030, a largely urban jungle with little minimal natural landscape is not what many envisioned.

Lastly, an important point she raised was for the governments to embark on Environment Impact Assessments (EIA) before embarking on large scale developments which may have impacts on our environments. And I believe this is very much needed, because Singapore is very small, and as per the Land Use Plan, we will only retain 4% of land in the reserve list (this I’m glad many MPs did raised as an alarmingly low figure, with little scope for future contingencies and planning), and we can’t afford to reach any point of no return.

After reading her speech, it gave me sort of an awakening that perhaps the White Paper was rushed through in Parliament after just 5 days of debate, which in actual fact, was held only a week after the release of the White Paper!

I feel some important concerns, such as those raised by NMP Faizal Jamal have not been giving enough airings, and maybe even some other important points that could have been missed in the short span of 5 days! Moreover, there ought to be more discussions on the plan on the ground, involving as many Singaporeans as possible. I see a lack of much needed communication between the government and the people before the plan was passed in Parliament – who can blame the people if they are so worried about the plan?

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