Speech by SMS Tan Kiat How at the Committee of Supply Debate in Parliament

Mar 5, 2024

Towards A City In Nature


1. Greening has been a national priority since independence in 1965. In our next bound of greening, we aim to make Singapore a City in Nature.

Transforming into a City in Nature

2. Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin has asked for updates on our progress.

3. First, we are establishing more green spaces and enhancing existing ones.

4. Last year, we completed Lakeside Garden within Jurong Lake Gardens. This year, we will open the revamped Chinese and Japanese Gardens, thereby completing Jurong Lake Gardens.

5. We also opened a new section of Pasir Panjang Park. This is one of the 13 parks along the Southern Ridges and West Coast that we will rejuvenate and link up with curated trails.

6. And, we are also making our green spaces more accessible and inclusive. Last year, we launched five therapeutic gardens in our parks. These gardens are more natural in design, bringing about greater sensory experiences that improve the well-being of visitors. We now have a total of 14 therapeutic gardens and are on track to achieve our goal of 30 such gardens by 2030.

7. Second, we are strengthening the connectivity between our green spaces.

8. To date, we have established around 210 km of Nature Ways and over 380 km of park connectors, including the first phase of the Round Island Route. These efforts bring us closer to nature and strengthen our ecological resilience, by facilitating the movement of native fauna between habitats.

9. We are also curating other island-wide recreation routes, such as the Rail Corridor, Central Corridor, and Coast-to-Coast trails. Just last month, we completed the Eastern Corridor. Singaporeans can now enjoy 18 kilometres of scenic land and waterscapes, as you walk, jog, or cycle from Pasir Ris Park to East Coast Park.

10. Third, we are restoring nature into our urban fabric and safeguarding our rich biodiversity.

11. Last year alone, Singapore added almost 40 hectares of skyrise greenery. This brings us to 190 hectares across the island – the equivalent of over 270 football fields. We are close to achieving our target of 200 hectares by 2030.

12. And, we have restored and enhanced over 40 hectares of forest, coastal, and marine habitats since 2020. With this, we are halfway to meet our enhanced target of 80 hectares by 2030.

13. We have also been enhancing the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park, and we look forward to reopening Big Sister’s Island to the public this year. Highlights will include a new coastal forest trail, tidal lagoon, and specially designed subtidal biodiversity panels along the floating boardwalk. These will allow visitors to observe marine life up close with minimal impact on the ecosystem.

14. Mr Louis Ng mentioned a target, adopted at the 15th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, to conserve 30% of coastal and marine areas by 2030. Like the other targets under the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, this is a global rather than a national target. Countries are expected to contribute according to their national circumstances, priorities, and capabilities.

15. Singapore is contributing through our efforts under our National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, taking into account our unique circumstances as a small, densely populated city-state.

16. To Mr Louis Ng and Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin’s question on additional marine parks, we will continue to carefully balance the different needs in planning for our sea spaces – such as recreation, shipping, and aquaculture – with conservation, under the Draft Master Plan 2025.

Developing Sensitively and Sustainably

17. Mr Louis Ng has also asked if we will consider enacting a new EIA law. Today, environmental considerations are already taken into account upstream in the land-use planning process.

18. Environmental studies are required for developments which may cause significant environmental impact, and appropriate mitigation measures will be put in place and closely monitored.

19. We have been strengthening the EIA process over the years. For example, we have published detailed guidelines for biodiversity impact assessments, and we are piloting the centralised management of EIA consultancy services under NParks.

20. Let us monitor the effect of these changes, before we decide whether we need to take any further steps to enhance our EIA framework.

Partnering the Community to Strengthen Nature Stewardship

21. Ms Nadia has asked how we will involve even more members of the community in our efforts.

22. The community’s support is crucial to realise our City in Nature vision. As part of the OneMillionTrees movement, more than 100,000 members of the community have joined us in planting over 640,000 trees.

23. Under the Nature Kakis Network, 140 passionate grassroots volunteers, across 16 chapters and counting, have been driving ground-up initiatives. We have also nurtured around 350 youth stewards through the Youth Stewards for Nature programme since 2021.

24. Through such efforts, NParks aims to grow its volunteer base from 48,000 to 70,000 by 2030.

Promoting Safe and Responsible Human-Wildlife Encounters

25. Sir, now, allow me to respond to Ms Nadia on our wildlife management efforts.

26. Public safety is our priority. As a densely populated city-state, we are very mindful that we need to carefully manage human-wildlife encounters, to ensure that Singaporeans feel safe in and around our green spaces.

27. That is why we take a proactive, comprehensive, and science-based approach in managing wildlife populations. We partner the nature community to engage the public on how to responsibly interact with and appreciate nature, through platforms such as school assembly talks, HDB’s MyNiceHome roadshows, and the Nature Kakis Network.

28. NParks adopts a range of targeted measures to manage different wildlife species, from pest birds, long-tailed macaques, otters, wild boars to crocodiles, as each species has its unique characteristics. There is no one-size-fits-all silver bullet.

29. The range of measures includes habitat modification to reduce food sources, the translocation of animals away from urban areas, and direct population control where necessary to protect public safety and/or reduce disamenities.

30. We continually refine our approach, based on ongoing research and international best practices.

31. NParks also conducts surveillance and enforcement against the illegal feeding of wildlife such as pest birds, which Mr Lim Biow Chuan has asked about.

32. For example, NParks deploys CCTV cameras and enforcement personnel at known feeding hotspots. With evidence, NParks will take enforcement action against the feeder. In each of the past three years, NParks has taken action against more than 170 cases of bird feeding, with actions ranging from warnings to prosecution depending on the severity of the case.

33. Mr Ng has asked if we will introduce a statutory presumption provision for wildlife feeding, similar to that for high-rise littering.

34. Under NEA’s presumption provision for high-rise littering, if there is clear evidence that an act of littering has been committed from a particular residential flat, the registered owners or tenants of the flat will be presumed to have committed the offence.

35. Today, this provision can already be exercised where bird feeders throw food from high-rise windows, as such acts are considered high-rise littering. However, this provision is contingent on the ability to pinpoint the wrongdoing to a specific unit, that is registered to specific individual(s).

36. As a large majority of illegal wildlife feeding cases take place in outdoor public areas, such a provision would not be applicable. Instead, as the main challenge in such cases is obtaining clear evidence that pinpoints the wrongdoer, evidence-gathering remains key. To this end, NParks will step up surveillance at identified feeding hotspots.

37. We understand the disamenities to residents from pigeons, such as the soiling of public spaces and laundry. Tackling this issue requires a multi-pronged, multi-stakeholder effort. NParks, SFA, and NEA have been consistently supporting Town Councils on their pigeon management efforts.

38. For example, NParks has been advising Town Councils on best practices for pigeon removal operations, and has leaned forward to conduct live demonstrations.

39. That said, we need to tackle the issue at its root, by reducing human-generated food sources in our estates.

40. In addition to discouraging and enforcing against illegal bird feeding, agencies have been working with Town Councils to improve food waste management, such as by encouraging the prompt clearance of leftover food from food centre tables, and the proper closure of bins.

41. In the coming months, we will step up our support for Town Councils to better manage the pigeon population, especially in certain hotspot areas.

42. Some ideas we are looking at include detailed guidelines on effective pigeon removal operations, and conducting site-specific assessments and interventions to reduce food sources. We will share more details when ready.

Working with Agencies and Institutions to Enhance Biosurveillance

43. We are also keenly aware of the interlinkages between human and animal health. Animals can carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans, and vice versa.

44. Biosurveillance is a crucial line of defence against zoonotic disease outbreaks. NParks has been partnering fellow One Health agencies – MOH, NEA, SFA, and PUB – on a range of efforts.

45. This includes the monitoring and analysis of animal health data and environmental indicators, so that we can swiftly detect and respond to diseases, avert potential outbreaks, and safeguard both public and animal health.

46. We are also integrating our training and capacity building efforts, and work closely together to investigate and manage disease outbreaks.

47. We will be stepping up research through a new $15 million Biosurveillance Research Programme.

48. The programme will harness expertise and emerging technologies across multiple disciplines, such as genomics, disease modelling and vector biology, to improve our understanding of the key drivers of zoonotic disease transmission in Singapore.

49. This will help us to develop more effective upstream mitigation strategies, including a more effective system to monitor and detect animal diseases. The research findings will also provide industry stakeholders and the wider public, including pet owners, with valuable insights on best practices for preventing zoonotic diseases.

50. Researchers can look forward to grant calls later this year.

Enhancing Protections for Animal Health and Welfare

51. Sir, we are also raising standards for animal health and welfare. As announced last October, we will be establishing a Veterinary Council, to regulate professional standards and practices in the local vet sector.

52. Mr Ng has asked about our approach to tackling animal cruelty. We take a serious view of all acts of animal cruelty. AVS investigates all feedback and will take appropriate enforcement action.

53. We are looking at the possibility of enhancing penalties for animal cruelty, as part of our ongoing review of the Animals and Birds Act. The review spans a range of areas, from enhancing protections for animal health and welfare, to strengthening safeguards on public health and safety.

54. As such, we will need time to formulate the proposals, and to consult the public and relevant stakeholders. We will share more details when ready.

55. Importantly, we must start upstream. We will continue to work closely with animal welfare groups to promote responsible interactions with animals, through platforms such as Pets’ Day Out events, school plays, and webinars.

56. Last December, I shared our proposed cat management framework. A key proposal was to license and microchip pet cats, and to allow up to two cats per HDB household.

57. We closed our public survey on the proposed framework last month. We received a broad spectrum of views. For example, some called for mandatory pet cat sterilisation, while others didn’t support this. We are studying the responses carefully, and will share more details when ready.

Mandarin Section

58. Sir, let me say a few words in Mandarin.

59. 我们对于新加坡转化为大自然里的城市的目标,取得了良好的进展。去年,裕廊湖花园内的湖畔花园发展圆满落幕。今年,我们将为重新改建的裕华园和星和园拉开序幕。

60. 我们在去年开设了五个康疗花园 – 现在总共有14个康疗花园。我们也建立了超过380公里的公园连道。

61. 这些设施让我们更加亲近自然,也增强了我们的生态恢复力。

62. 与此同时,为了让国人能够安全地享受我们的绿色空间,我们采取积极、全面和基于科学的方法来管理野生动物种群,并与利益相关者密切合作,以推广人类与野生动物之间和平共处。

63. 我们也意识到公共健康和动物健康息息相关。动物于人类之间可传染疾病。生物监测是以防动物源疾病传播的关键防线。

64. 我们将通过一个新的1500万元的生物监测研究计划,加强在这个领域的研究。该计划将增进我们对动物源疾病传播的关键病原的理解,并帮助我们开发针对城市环境更有效的上游缓解策略。


65. Sir, let me turn back to English. In conclusion, in transforming Singapore into a City in Nature, partnerships are key. This will help us to better manage human-wildlife interactions, and strengthen safeguards on public and animal health.

66. We have made good progress, but there is more to be done. As we press on with our efforts, we will continue to collaborate with stakeholders and the wider community. Together, we can shape a green, vibrant, and resilient Singapore, that we are all proud to call home.

67. Thank you.