Curb Car Population Now for a More Sustainable Singapore

20 March 2012

Dear Editor,


We are told the new flyover in Bukit Brown will ease congestion and improve traffic flow - expected to increase by 30% by year 2020. At the same time, studies reveal that Singapore has more cars and fewer cyclists than in most developed cities and countries - and is also the highest polluter in Asia.

The question we should really be asking is: What kind of a sustainable Singapore do we want in 2020 and ahead? By building more roads and ensuring more road space, we continue to encourage private vehicle ownership. Public transportation has seen good improvements, with interconnected MRT lines and bus networks. So why is our transportation system struggling to cope ?

The answer is our planners do not view Singapore as a single entity. Our nation has a fragmented view of the social, economic, environmental and infrastructure aspects of Singapore. Visions and policies across these do not weave them together as they should. 

Staggered work hours and telecommuting can reduce the stress on public transportation during peak hours – this approach was tested 20 years ago in one statutory board, but since then nothing has materialised. Flexi-work can start with working from home once a week or month, or changing office hours. The civil service can take the lead in this, being the nation's largest work group.

Buses can be more frequent with more and varied express bus services to busy areas. Bicycle lanes can be drawn within the bus lanes islandwide; half a meter width is all that's needed. Melbourne sets a brilliant example of this approach, and it works.

Cars are highly polluting, during manufacture, delivery and use. They contribute to poor air quality for pedestrians and residents, in addition to noise pollution. Car ownership in Singapore should be given the same treatment as our strict housing policy . Families of 3 or more should be allowed to buy a car more easily than singles. Pollution tax should be incorporated in the cost of cars (in addition to ERP). Parking rates should be made uncomfortably high, as in the case of Hong Kong.

It is time to bring out the stick if we are serious about reducing congestion on roads.


By Mallika Naguran

Tree Felling and Bush Clearance in Kallang

(A letter sent to National Parks Board in Singapore)


Dear Sir/Madam

I have observed that too many trees are being cleared when they seem healthy. This is around the Upper Boon Keng Area. And this morning the bushes lining the canal are all cleared. They are the natural habitats of many birds and creatures, and provide important nutrients to them as well.  I am a witness of the different species in this area, which are dwindling, as I walk through this area every day.

Please see more comments in this blog.

I would like a response from NParks on this matter.

Please stop felling trees and clearing bushes indiscriminately. They may be be indispensable to humans, but they certainly aren't to the birds and bees.

You can also have an idea of the pollution in this home video of mine.


Mallika NAGURAN (Ms)
Publisher & Managing Director, Gaia Publications

Animal Rights Demonstration Refused in Singapore


Dear Mr Ng Joo Hee

Commissioner of Police, Singapore Police Force

I refer to the incident involving the arrest of Mr Edward Basse representing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA in Bedok, Singapore in June 2010. The incident was reported in several media such as The Straits Times and Asian Correspondent, please see:

Can the Singapore Police Force please clarify its rationale for not issuing the necessary permit to PETA to carry out its activity in public awareness? According to The Straits Times, PETA had prior to the date of planned demonstration submitted an application to the Singapore Police Force, but it was rejected. According to Asian Correspondent news report, "Basse had planned to don a chicken costume and hold signs saying "KFC: Stop Chicken Cruelty" to protest the treatment of chickens on farms and slaughterhouses." PETA decided to carry on with its mission of public information in spite of its inability to obtain a permit from the Singapore Police Force, which led to Mr Basse's forced removal from the scene through police arrest. 

The people of Singapore who in part, unfortunately, constitute gullible youths and media-charmed children deserve to be informed of unethical practices of commercial organisations, even if the method of awareness is the staging of public speaking or demonstrations at strategic, populous locations. This is to enable consumers and citizens including me - a Singapore citizen - to make an informed choice of our purchases and actions.

A copy of this letter and its reply will be posted on Gaia Discovery. 

Thank you.

Yours truly


Mallika NAGURAN (Ms) 

Managing Editor, Gaia Discovery 

Disallow Long Net Fishing in Singapore Rivers, Canals

(This letter was published in Today newspaper's website in Singapore)

2 April 2010

Dear Editor,

Of late hobby fishing has taken off along the Kallang canal. The methods include rod and line, small and long nets. The long nets can stretch across the width of the canal, up to 40m.

The long nets are getting more popular as they haul in larger quantities of fish at a quicker time. However, these nets are a hazard to the cleaner boats (see photos taken near Block 14 Upper Boon Keng Road this morning) as it jams the propeller. As rubbish of all sizes flow down the river, they are trapped by these nets making them hard and risky to pull out by the cleaners. The nets also trap other marine animals such as turtles and iguana, plus other fish species including juveniles. Fishing has contributed to greater pollution; more styrofoam, plastic bags and bottles are strewn into the river once the hobby has been served. Birds, including migratory ones, depend on the fishes for food. With pollution all round, the marine ecosystems and wildlife are being threatened.

The authorities should step in to curb this problem, and ban long net fishing altogether. I had written to the NEA three years ago complaining about the lack of rubbish bins along the canal, and repeated the problem to officers in person appealing for more bins (including recycle bins), but I have yet to see any improvement. Monitoring against littering is also needed. Perhaps our Permanent Resident Voluntary Constables can offer their valuable services to this matter.

Thank you.

Best regards

Mallika Naguran

Managing Editor, Gaia Discovery

Responsible Tourism Growth Needed in Singapore

(This letter to The Straits Times was not published)

6 March 2010

Dear Editor

I refer to a Prime News article in The Straits Times on 6 March 2010.  Singapore hopes to receive 17 million visitors by year 2015 and the government is gearing up the tourism industry to overcome the challenges involved in meeting this target. This, according to Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education S. Iswaran, refers to not just investments in hardware infrastructure but also transformation and adaptation to "emerging competitive challenges".

Tourism industry globally contributes to economic growth but not without harm to the environment. Tourism's share of global warming has been said to be 12.5 percent, of which aviation alone contributes 5 percent. It has been forecast that carbon emissions from tourism will grow by 162 percent in the period 2005-2035. The tourism industry should thus play a responsible role in reducing its carbon footprint by considering environmentally-friendly processes, systems and solutions.  Areas that can be looked into include office administration, event management, travel and transportation, food and catering, efficiencies in water, waste and energy, and the offer of carbon offset schemes.

Information on various aspects of sustainable tourism, education, training and certification can be found on websites such as The International Ecotourism Society (, Green Globe or Earth Check (, and Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (

For Asian models of sustainable hospitality operations and to participate in a recognition programme, hoteliers can refer to the not-for-profit WildAsia's Responsible Tourism Award (

Thank you.

Best regards

Mallika Naguran
Managing Editor, Gaia Discovery

Three Oil & Gas Board of Directors in Singapore's National Environment Agency

 17 February 2010

Mr Andrew Tan, CEO, National Environment Agency

I am writing to enquire about the National Environment Agency of Singapore's (NEA) criteria in its selection of advisors that serve as Board Directors.

I note that there are two Shell personnel: Mr Warren Fernandez, Regional Director, Communication Strategy, Asia Pacific Pte Ltd, Shell Eastern Petroleum Ptd Ltd and Dr Philip Choi, President, Shell International Eastern Trading Company. Another Board Director is from the oil & gas industry as well, Mr Daniel Ee Hock Huat, Chairman, Gas Supply Pte Ltd.

The other eight members, including the Chairman and yourself, come from sectors that represent investment, business consultancy, health, trade, transport, government and employability.  Board Members representing fossil-fuel powered energy companies and trade constitute nearly 30% of the collective voice and decision-making in NEA, Singapore's statutory board with regulatory powers and jurisdiction on the many aspects of the environment - land, sea and sky.

There are no specialists in clean energy or renewable energy serving on the Board, and there seems to be a gap where reputable environmentalists, ecologists and scientists can play a bigger role.

It leaves open the question as to whether the interests of Singapore in its drive towards greater environmental sustainability are adequately represented, not just in terms of meeting its ambitious targets set out in the the Sustainable Development Blueprint but setting a whole new direction altogether as we head towards unprecedented environmental challenges in global warming and adverse climate change while tackling local issues. The real challenge is adaptation towards what is to come, beyond mitigation.

I look forward to your reply. 

Thank you.

Best regards


Mallika Naguran

Managing Editor, Gaia Discovery

Managing Director, Gaia Discovery Eco Solutions

Mobile: +65 9663 7289 Skype: malgaia 15 Upper Boon Keng Road #15-1067 Singapore 380015


Gaia Discovery environmental web publication reaches out to readers from 150 countries monthly. 

Gaia Discovery Eco Solutions helps businesses go green.

ps. A copy of this correspondence will be posted on Gaia Discovery.  /letters


Update on 2010-02-27 07:26 by Gaia Discovery

(The response to the letter above was received on 20 Feb 2010.)

Dear Ms Naguran

     We refer to your email of 17 Feb 2010.

     NEA  Board  Members are appointed by the Minister for the Environment
     and  Water Resources (MEWR), in consultation with the Board Chairman.
     The  composition  of  NEA  Board  Members is reviewed periodically to
     ensure  a  good representation of members with professional expertise
     from various relevant industries as well as the public sector.

     The  current  panel of Board Members were appointed on two-year terms
     to  provide views and guidance to NEA, drawing on their expertise and
     experience  in areas such as health, finance, transportation, energy,
     social  science  and  public  administration. Mr Warren Fernandez was
     with  the Straits Times at the point of his appointment.  He left the
     Straits  Times  to  join  Shell  to  take  up a public communications
     portfolio during his 2-year term.

     Besides the Board, NEA also consults and works closely with a variety
     of  stakeholders,  organisations  and  industry  associations.  These
     include   the   Singapore  Environment  Council;  Sustainable  Energy
     Association of Singapore; Waste Management & Recycling Association of
     Singapore;  Singapore  Packaging Agreement Governing Board; Singapore
     Pest   Management   Association;  Singapore  Hotels  Association  and
     Singapore  Chemical  Industry  Council,  to  name  just  a few.  More
     recently,  NEA  has  also engaged the media through a resource panel.
     This  approach has served us well in getting a balanced mix of views.

     We thank you for your interest in NEA.


     Bashir Ahmad
     Board Secretary

Bashir Ahmad. Deputy Director. Policy Department . National Environment
Agency . DID +65 6731 9105 . Fax +65 67319 922

Renewal Energy The Way to Secure Future

Dear Editor

The Straits Times

Grateful if you can publish this letter. Thank you.

Forum Letter - 1 July 2009

Renewal Energy The Way to Secure Future

Singapore desires to be a sustainable city and has become a model for achieving a number of feats in conservation and optimization of resources, especially water. Our goal in paving a secure future with pure drinking water that is drained from our own sewers, land and rivers, treated with modern membrane technology, is laudable.

To be a truly sustainable and secure city, however, we also need to be self-sufficient in energy. Our reliance on foreign fuels is not sustainable as crude oil and compressed natural gas (CNG) are finite resources with fluctuating prices dependent on market and geopolitical conditions.

Singapore’s energy tariff, though improved, is still pegged to rising and falling oil prices. Which means that consumers will still be penalized with higher utility bills despite individual conservation efforts. Which puts the government’s pricing strategy out of whack with motivating conservation.

In a 2008 forum (Source: Business Times 17 July 2008 by Jamie Lee), David Tan, deputy chief executive of the Energy Market Authority had said: “We do not subsidise energy. We believe in the right pricing of energy because by pricing energy correctly, that would drive certain behaviour in consumers,” he said. “As a result of that behaviour, we believe consumers will learn to conserve energy.”

Conservation mindset, in my opinion, will be better shaped through incentives given on reduced energy bills by way of clean energy adoption. Singapore, an island, enjoys full sunshine year round, consistent wind at coastal and hilly areas, and constant ebb and flow of tides. All these can be tapped for our secure energy needs, at district and precinct levels, for both present and future needs.

CNG, that forms 80% of our energy source, is cleaner compared to coal-fired sources; however they are not much cleaner than renewable sources like solar, wind, tidal, and geothermal energy. As a consumer, I demand to be given choices in engaging green energy suppliers. My motivation – I wish to lead a zero-energy lifestyle, beyond conservation of polluting energy. I also wish for my children and future generations to enjoy clean and uninterrupted energy sources for a secure home in Singapore.

The cost of using renewal energy sources will not be an issue if pricing and subsidies in using solar or wind energy sources can be dealt with by feed in tariffs or power purchase agreements; a public consultation on this issue should be forthcoming – involving industry and consumers. Residents of private and public housing have the right to be aware of the various cost opportunities and long-term benefits for them, to make informed decisions on pricing policies and the freedom to engage the energy supplier of choice.

As an HDB flat owner and occupant, I long for flexibility in the way we use the power coming from the grid, and be given the opportunity to feed unutilized power back to the grid. By earning money beyond saving on diminishing utility bills, Singaporeans will be driven to conserve energy.

We need to make a stand as a nation for the preservation of Gaia – our mother Earth - and the security of our energy dependency. The government will do well to listen to the changing demands of its constituents and empower its people with greater choices in a liberalized energy sector. For a secure future, that is.

By Ms Mallika Naguran
Managing Editor, Gaia Discovery
Mobile: +65 9663 7289
15 Upper Boon Keng Road #15-1067 Singapore 380015

(Mallika Naguran notes: This letter was not published. It has been rejected following the likes of numerous letters sent to Singapore's official English language newspaper The Straits Times on topics such as pollution, road congestion and energy waste.  Unfortunately, many of these letters have been lost, and I am unable to reproduce all of them here. I've decided for now to post on Gaia Discovery all letters sent out to organisations to allow for readers to read and judge for themselves the issues involved and responses from the various organisations.)