Singapore Government Press Release

Media Division, Ministry of Information and The Arts

36th Storey, PSA Building, 460 Alexandra Road, Singapore 119963.

Tel: 3757794/5

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SPEECH BY DR JOHN CHEN, MINISTER OF STATE FOR COMMUNICATIONS, AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE 1ST ASIA PACIFIC CONFERENCE & EXHIBITION ON TRANSPORTATION & THE ENVIRONMENT, WED 13 MAY 98 AT 9.00AM AT THE WESTIN STAMFORD & WESTIN PLAZA

 

 

Dr Fwa, Chairman of 1st APTE

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies & Gentlemen

 

Good morning.

 

For a long time, it was accepted that economic growth could only take place at the expense of the environment. Pollution and degradation of the environment were seen as an inevitable component of economic development.

 

Fortunately, that view is changing today. A clean and healthy environment is now recognised as an integral part of sustainable economic development. As people become more affluent with economic development, they demand clean environment for quality living.

 

In line with this enlightenment, many countries now realise the importance of a transport policy that promotes social and economic activities without negative environmental effects. Economic development comes with increased activities. Business centres spring up all over. People move around more often. More goods have to be transported from one place to another.

 

This is happening here in the Asia Pacific region. As economies develop, we are witnessing rapid trends of urbanisation and motorisation, as well as the construction of bigger and more sophisticated airports and seaports. It is therefore, timely and appropriate for a conference to be held to discuss these issues and see how we can address possible environmental concerns. I am pleased that the transportation professionals of Singapore have taken the initiative to work with the United Nations ESCAP to launch this conference series. I understand that delegates from 22 countries are here today. This clearly underscores the interest and concern of the regional professionals on environmental issues in transport operations and infrastructure development.

 

The Singapore Experience

 

As a city-state, we in Singapore are constantly challenged to seek economic growth without adversely affecting our environment. In the area of transport, we face growing demands from a population that requires fast and efficient transport system while constrained by limited land to build roads. I would like to share with you some of our experiences, which could be useful to facilitate further discussion at this conference.

 

One of Singapore's key strategy in the area of land transport is integrated town and transport planning. First, integrated town planning minimises the need for travel by concentrating the amenities in an area. Next, by having a proper mix of developments and the highest building densities concentrated at and around transport nodes, such as MRT stations, we can ensure maximum accessibility for commuters to key nodes of employment, housing and social activities.

 

Traffic congestion is a common problem in major cities. Apart from causing travel delays and economic losses, it also creates severe pollution in densely populated urban areas, and leads to wasteful consumption of energy. Through the implementation of the Area Licensing Scheme, Singapore has been able to control the traffic congestion problem in the Central Business District. This year, we are moving on to further improve our traffic management capability by implementing the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) scheme. The ERP system will allow us to charge for road usage in a more flexible, efficient and equitable way. With the technology available, we are able to exploit the flexibility of the ERP system to implement a road pricing structure based on the actual level of traffic congestion experienced on the roads. By making charges more explicit, motorists would be persuaded to consciously think about whether the trip ought to be made, or if it should be made at a different time, when he would not contribute to more congestion, or if he should take a different route, or use public transport instead. Phase I of the ERP was started in April this year on the East Coast Parkway. It will be extended in phases to the Central Business District and other choke points on the expressways and arterial roads.

 

In addition, the Land Transport Authority(LTA) seeks to harness technology to optimise the capacity of our land transport networks. Instead of merely using more land to build more roads, LTA has developed intelligent programmes that can help to maximise the capacity of our existing road network. For example, all 1,300 traffic signals in Singapore have been computerised under the Green Link Determining (or GLIDE) System. With GLIDE, we can produce green waves to increase the flow of vehicles, and detect traffic light faults quickly so that they can be rectified.

 

However, private transport alone will not be able to keep pace with the growing demand for mobility. Therefore, public transport is a key component in our vision for a world class land transport system in Singapore. It is also a more environmental friendly solution because it is more efficient in terms of road space usage and energy consumption. LTA is actively spearheading the development of our MRT and LRT networks. By providing accessible and efficient public transport systems, the LTA hopes to encourage more Singaporeans to make use of public transport.

 

To control the emission of lead from motor vehicles, the Ministry of the Environment (ENV) has progressively reduced the maximum allowable lead content in petrol since 1980. Unleaded petrol was introduced in January 1991 and is now sold at a lower price than leaded petrol to promote its use. ENV recently announced its intention to phase out the sale of leaded petrol at all petrol stations in Singapore from 1 July 1998. This is in line with worldwide trends because of concerns over the effects of lead on human health.

 

Prevention of maritime pollution is another area of key concern. As you are aware, Singapore is strategically located at the crossroads between the Asia-Pacific and the Middle-East and Europe. Our port ranks as the world's busiest port with more than 130,000 vessel calls in 1997. Singapore is also a major oil refining and bunkering centre. The Malacca and Singapore Straits are very busy waterways used by international maritime traffic.

 

In view of the high level of shipping activities, safety is of paramount concern to MPA, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. The Authority is responsible for ensuring that the Port of Singapore is safe for navigation and that its marine environment is protected from pollution. Besides being a signatory to various maritime conventions to prevent oil pollution, MPA is also actively harnessing technology to ensure navigational safety within our port and its approaches. In Sep 97, MPA established a Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) that will allow ships to be more accurately informed of their locations. MPA has also made use of remote satellite imaging to better monitor oil slicks on the ocean surface around Singapore, deterring illegal discharge of oil. MPA's reputation in combating pollution in Singapore waters is well known.

 

Conclusion

 

These are but some of the efforts being undertaken in Singapore. I believe many of you have useful experiences which Singapore can learn from too. As the regional haze problem has demonstrated, environmental issues do not stop at the national boundaries and collective effort among countries is often required to deal with them. Hence, I hope that participants will take this opportunity during the conference to exchange information and ideas and examine ways of cooperation if possible.

 

On this note, I wish you success in your conference. To our overseas visitors, I hope that you have a pleasant stay in Singapore too.

 

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