Speech by Mr Desmond Tan, Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment at MSE's COS Debates 2021, 4 Mar 2021
Strengthening Singapore's Resource Resilience for our Future Generations
1 Mr Chairman, MSE remains committed in ensuring our water sustainability and supply of safe food for future generations. Let me share how we intend to do so, partnering businesses and Singaporeans.
Enhancing Water Sustainability
2 Even as we commission new desalination and NEWater plants, new infrastructure cannot keep pace with demand as our economy and population grow. We must not let up on efforts to conserve water.
3 Household water consumption decreased from 148 to 141 litres per person per day (LPCD) between 2016 and 2019. This increased to 154 LPCD last year with more staying home during the pandemic. We must continue to drive water conservation efforts to achieve our goal of 130 LPCD by 2030.
Smart Water Meters
4 Mr Yip Hon Weng suggested tapping on technology to enhance water use efficiency. This is what we are trying to do. PUB will commence the first phase of the Smart Water Meter Programme later this year to install 300,000 smart water meters in new and existing residential, commercial and industrial premises in seven districts across the island by 2023.
5 Consumers can monitor their daily water use and receive notifications and tips through the accompanying web portal. Alerts will be sent when abnormal water use patterns are detected, signifying potential leaks that need to be fixed.
Mandatory Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme and Minimum Water Efficiency Requirements
6 PUB will partner the non-domestic sector to increase its water efficiency, as the sector is projected to account for the major part of total water demand by 2060, as noted by Ms Poh Li San and Mr Yip Hon Weng. With your permission, Mr Chairman, may I display some slides on the LCD screen.
7 From January 2022, the Mandatory Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme (MWELS) will be extended to water closets flush valves that are used in toilets in premises like shopping malls and offices. As a start, only those with a minimum two-tick efficiency rating can be sold.
8 PUB will also introduce the mandatory minimum water efficiency requirements for three types of commercial equipment, namely washer extractors, dishwashers and high-pressure washers.
9 Both schemes are expected to save about 0.72 million gallons of water per day, equivalent to 480 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of water annually.
10 Starbucks managed to reduce its annual water consumption by 2% for its outlets that have switched to water-efficient dishwashers. 645m3 of water was saved in a year, equivalent to about a quarter of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and $1,800 was shaved from its annual bills.
Enhancements to leak detection
11 I would like to assure Ms Cheng Li Hui that PUB will continue to minimise water losses through smart and cost-effective measures, even though Singapore already has one of the lowest rates of water leakages in the world at five leaks for every 100km of pipes yearly.
12 PUB will install 1,200 permanent leak detection sensors by 2021 to remotely monitor approximately 500km of large water pipelines. Advanced leak detection tools, such as the SmartBall, will be propelled by the water flow within the pipeline to survey long stretches for leaks.
Safeguarding our used water resources
13 Mr Yip Hon Weng stressed the importance of safeguarding our used water resources. Singapore is one of the few countries to close the water loop, returning used water to the system in the form of NEWater or industrial water.
14 PUB takes a zero-tolerance approach towards improper used water discharges and will not hesitate to prosecute errant companies, because improper discharges pose health hazards to sewerage workers and cause disruptions to our water reclamation process.
15 PUB's enforcement efforts are complemented by advanced sensing technologies to monitor these illegal discharges.
16 The network of online volatile organic compounds monitoring units will be expanded from the current 40 units to 100 units by end-2021. 175 trade premises will have microbial electrochemical sensors installed in their last inspection chambers, from 100 today, to alert PUB when excessive heavy metals are detected. These data help PUB more accurately identify high-risk trade premises and address emerging problems early.
Strengthening Food Security and Safety
17 Mr Chairman, Singapore has developed a multi-pronged approach to ensure our food security including import diversification, local production and stockpiling of essential food items. We also support local companies to expand overseas and export their produce back home.
30x30 Express Grant & RIE Plans
18 In 2019, we announced our 30 by 30 goal to buffer Singapore from global disruptions arising from climate change.
19 When COVID-19 hit our shores, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) responded quickly by launching the '30X30 Express' grant call to accelerate local food production.
20 I am pleased to share with Ms Nadia Samdin that in September 2020, SFA awarded close to $40 million to nine companies out of 40 innovative proposals received to boost local production of eggs, leafy vegetables and fish. While one farm has since withdrawn and another has yet to accept the offer, the other seven remain on track.
21 One successful recipient, Indoor Farm Factory Innovation, or I.F.F.I Pte Ltd is setting up a high-tech indoor vegetable farm with a vertical integration growth system of up to 8 meters in height. I look forward to their vegetables hitting the shelves this year.
22 To produce more with less, we must continue investing in technology. Under the $144 million Singapore Food Story R&D Programme, three Grant Calls on Sustainable Urban Food Production and Future Foods on Alternative Proteins have been launched. Award results will be announced soon.
Agri-Food Cluster Transformation Fund
23 SFA has supported existing farms to achieve higher productivity through the Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF) since 2015. As of end-December 2020, $43 million have been committed from the APF to support 118 farms.
24 Homegrown company, Blue Ocean Aquaculture Technology, benefitted from the APF to invest in the Recirculating Aquaculture System technology which enables it to farm fish in an indoor controlled environment and to recycle water within the production loop.
25 The new $60 million Agri-Food Cluster Transformation (ACT) Fund replaces the APF which expired in 2020 and provides funding support for local farms over the next five years.
26 On Ms Nadia Samdin's question, the ACT Fund has been designed with several improvements over the APF. It will better cater to farms of different scales and development needs, from start-up to growth and expansion. It will have a higher co-funding quantum and wider scope in support of farms that adopt advanced farming systems which improve productivity and resource efficiency.
Agri-Land Tenders and MSCP Rooftop Farms
27 SFA has also made more spaces available for our local farms. Five tranches of agri-land tendered out will progressively be operational in the coming years, and the first batch of Multi-Storey Carpark (MSCP) rooftop farms will commence production this year.
28 Seven more HDB MSCP rooftops are currently being tendered for urban farming, while the tender for our sixth tranche of land sales will be awarded in the coming weeks.
Masterplanning Lim Chu Kang
29 To ensure that we optimise our limited agri-land, SFA will masterplan around 390ha in Lim Chu Kang to create a vibrant agri-food hub that will anchor global and local best-in-class companies in Singapore.
30 As Mr Don Wee suggested, we should co-create the masterplan with stakeholders including the food and non-food farms, nature groups, and residents around the area.I have kickstarted a series of conversations with these stakeholders to better understand their needs and aspirations for Lim Chu Kang. These engagements will continue throughout the year.
31 We will study the feedback carefully and form dedicated workgroups with relevant stakeholders to develop the masterplan. The ideas will be incorporated with the findings from the environmental baseline and topographical studies, when we launch the masterplanning consultancy in end-2021.
32 We hear Mr Don Wee's concerns about the impact to the livelihoods of affected farmers. 26 farms have leases expiring and will be able to stay on until their leases expire, with most having a further short extension. We will continue to facilitate their transition plans, including the feasibility of moving to indoor spaces. SFA will work with the industry to minimise any disruption to local production during this transition.
Uplifting the Aquaculture Sector
33 Ms Nadia Samdin asked about the plans to unlock the potential of our local sea-based farms. Most of the approximately 100 coastal farms in the Straits of Johor adopt open-net cage farming techniques. SFA has been encouraging them to invest in technology to enhance productivity and resilience against external environmental risks.
34 Farms are also encouraged to use fish feed that minimises impact on the marine eco-system, and tap on solar and tidal energy to power their farming systems.
35 Farms can apply for the ACT Fund for their capital investments. Following feedback from farms, SFA will launch new sea space tenders on leases within the next few years to provide farms with greater certainty on the use of sea spaces.
36 To ensure that our sea spaces can sustain high-yielding production over the long term, SFA will work with the farms to monitor the impact of aquaculture activities on farming sites and measures to manage the spread of fish diseases.
37 SFA has engaged the industry to understand their concerns and support required. We will strive to uplift the sector, build food resilience and generate good jobs for Singaporeans.
38 I echo Ms Cheryl Chan, Dr Lim Wee Kiak and Ms Nadia Samdin's calls to build a new generation of the agri-food skilled workforce. SFA is working with Institutes of Higher Learning and local farms on courses and structured internship programmes to equip students and adult job seekers with skillsets directly relevant to the agri-food sector.
39 Mr Chairman, in Mandarin please.
Promoting Demand for Local Produce
43 As our farms build capabilities and increase production, consumers can make a conscious choice to support local produce, which is fresher and lasts longer.
44 SFA launched the SG Fresh Produce logo in 2020 to facilitate consumers in identifying local produce. A new "Clean & Green" standard for urban farms will be introduced this year, as a mark of assurance that the produce is free from synthetic pesticides and grown in a clean farming environment using resource-efficient and sustainable practices.
45 SFA will pilot two projects recommended by the Citizens' Workgroup, where hospitals feature local produce in new mothers' first meal after delivery, and wet markets make it easier for consumers to identify local produce at the stalls.
46 While most farms produce for the domestic market, SFA and ESG are also assisting them to secure greater market access overseas.
Introduction of a new Bill for Food Safety and Security
47 As mentioned by Ms Nadia Samdin, the formation of SFA in 2019 brought various food-related functions under a single agency, allowing SFA to have better regulatory oversight of the entire food supply chain from farm to fork.
48 To manage new and emerging food safety risks as the agri-food landscape develops, SFA will introduce a new Bill this year to consolidate and strengthen its powers that currently reside in several pieces of legislation.
49 Last December, SFA allowed the company EAT Just, Inc. to sell its cultured chicken as an ingredient in nuggets in Singapore after rigorously assessing that all food safety risks have been addressed. With more novel food products being developed, Mr Gan Thiam Poh is spot-on in suggesting that more food safety assurances should be put in place.
50 The new Act will provide greater legal clarity on the regulatory framework for novel foods, including mandating that a pre-market safety assessment must be done before approval for sale is granted. SFA will also inspect and sample novel food products for testing, as is done for other food products.
51 However, food safety is a joint responsibility with the industry and consumers. Food companies must ensure that their products are safe and fit for consumption. To help consumers make informed food choices, the new Act will continue to impose existing requirements for companies to label the product packaging to indicate the true nature of the food.
52 As pointed out by Ms Nadia Samdin, another trend accelerated by the pandemic is the proliferation of food delivery.
53 While food delivery companies are not licensed by SFA as they are not involved in the food preparation or processing and thus have minimal risks of causing food contamination, they remain responsible for ensuring that the food is transported in a manner that does not compromise on food safety. This includes maintaining the cleanliness of the vehicle and equipment used for transportation of food.
54 SFA has been engaging food delivery companies on food safety practices and will explore Ms Nadia Samdin's suggestion for these companies to indicate hygiene and cleanliness information on their platform.
55 Mr Chairman, I urge Members to support the work done by MSE, PUB and SFA to secure Singapore's food and water supplies. Assurances on food and water security serve as social and psychological ballasts for Singaporeans as we build Singapore back better.