Parliamentary Questions for the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment

Hazel Asks the Sustainability and the Environment Minister

Capacity and Performance of NEA ePortal

3 April 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) what is the maximum number of concurrent users that the NEA ePortal can accommodate; (b) whether the number of users has frequently exceeded this maximum capacity when the e-appointment booking for visitors parking at Choa Chu Kang Columbarium and Mandai Columbarium is opened during the Qing Ming period; and (c) whether there are plans to upgrade the NEA ePortal to improve the e-appointment booking process.

Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien: The National Environment Agency (NEA) e-appointment booking system for parking during Qing Ming was upgraded this year to concurrently handle up to 800 applications, double that of last year. Additional applicants would be placed on a queue to await their turn.

The e-appointment booking system experienced some technical issues when it was opened for booking on 4 March 2024. This led to intermittency and longer than expected queue time for some users in the first two hours after booking opened. Thereafter, most users were able to complete their bookings within five minutes. NEA will further improve on the e-appointment system for Qing Ming next year.

Arrears on Utility Bills

26 February 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment how many Singaporean households were in arrears on their utility bills in 2023 and what were the median and maximum number of months they were in arrears.

Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien: As at 31 December 2023, 6,300 (or 0.5%) of all resident households had water bills in arrears for six months or more, with the median duration of arrears being less than one month.

Eligible households receive U-Save rebates from the Government to help offset their utility expenses. As announced at Budget 2024, eligible households will receive two-and-a-half times the amount of regular U-Save rebates, or up to $950, in Financial Year 2024. Resident households that require additional financial assistance can tap on various community and social assistance schemes.

Note: Figures stated above are rounded off to the nearest hundred.

Food Hygiene Ratings after Food Poisoning Incidents

3 October 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) why did it take eight to 10 months after food poisoning incidents to downgrade the Food Hygiene ratings of food outlets in Nanyang Girls School and the Shangri-La Hotel; and (b) what is the usual range and median for such time intervals.

Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien: To safeguard food safety, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) requires food establishments involved in food poisoning incidents to take immediate corrective action to rectify the food safety lapses. SFA may also issue a direction to stop the sale of food until the lapses are rectified. This is done for incidents assessed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to have significant public health risk, or where SFA had detected severe food safety lapses.

Based on joint investigation findings by SFA and MOH, SFA will take the necessary enforcement actions against the offender for lapses detected. Examples of these include prosecution in Court and the issuance of composition fines. SFA will also assess if a downgrading of the premises’ food hygiene grade is warranted. In cases involving prosecution, this takes place after the offender has been convicted of the alleged offences. This allows all relevant facts to be taken into account. The time taken for food establishments to be downgraded can vary, depending on the complexity of the case, such as whether multiple food establishments are involved. It ranges from six to eleven months, with the median being eight months.

Rodent Glue Traps

4 April 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment whether glue traps for pests and rodents will be banned from use, given the possibility of catching unintended targets after deployment.

Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien: Pest control operators (PCOs) have various means to manage the population of pests and would assess the situation to determine the most appropriate means to ensure effective and safe pest control.

When used responsibly and safely, glue traps are an effective tool for trapping and removing rodents. To minimise the risk of non-target animals being trapped by glue traps, NParks, in consultation with NEA and the Singapore Pest Management Association (SPMA), had issued guidelines to PCOs on the responsible use of glue traps.

NParks, NEA and SPMA will review these guidelines from time to time.

Flood Management

14 September 2021

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment whether she can provide an update on the flood management measures and early warning system in view of the recent flooding.

The Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien): Mdm Deputy Speaker, the effects of climate change are increasingly felt around the world. Recently, we saw widespread flooding caused by a record rainfall in parts of Europe, China and the USA.

Singapore has also experienced intense rainfall events in recent months. On 17 April and 24 August, more than an entire month’s rainfall fell on our western parts within three to four hours. Given climate change, we must prepare for more extreme weather scenarios as we are likely to see more flash floods from intense rain.

Mdm Deputy Speaker: Minister, are you taking Question Nos 43 to 45 together?

Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien: Yes, Mdm Deputy Speaker. I beg your pardon. Three questions, please.

Mdm Deputy Speaker: Please proceed.

Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien: Thank you. PUB has invested almost $2 billion on drainage works in the last decade and reduced Singapore’s flood-prone areas from 3,200 hectares in the 1970s to 28 hectares today. PUB will continue to monitor these flood-prone areas closely. Another $1.4 billion will be invested over the next five years on drainage improvement works. It is, however, not practical to expand all 8,000-plus kilometres of our drains and flood protection infrastructure to accommodate every extreme rainfall event, as this would require massive land take and much higher costs.

Flash floods arising from intense rainfall occur in limited areas and are transient – most will subside within 30 minutes, given our extensive drainage system. Moreover, PUB deploys more immediate and practical measures to protect our properties against flash floods, including portable flood barriers that can be installed at doorways or erected on roads and pavements. These flood barriers protect residents and businesses against flash floods and minimise potential damage to their premises.

PUB is using technology to better predict and respond to floods. PUB will complete enhancements to its rainfall forecasting capability by first quarter of 2022. This will help forecast locations which will face heavy rainfall, issue earlier public alerts and enable early deployment of portable flood barriers in areas at risk of flash floods. Coupled with an extensive network of water level sensors and CCTVs installed at flood-prone areas, PUB’s Quick Response Team can also be deployed on site faster and assist premises owners to set up flood barriers, if needed. Information on floods and road closures is communicated to the public promptly through radio broadcasts, news media, myENV Mobile App, PUB Facebook and Twitter, as well as LTA’s Expressway Monitoring Advisory System. SMS alerts are also sent to those who have registered to receive flood warnings.

These measures will also help build preparedness to extreme weather events and strengthen community resilience, as we check weather advisories and warnings and adjust our daily schedules accordingly. I encourage members of the public to subscribe to NEA’s and PUB’s SMS alerts.

PUB will continue to strengthen our forecasting and sensing capabilities and implement cost-effective measures to minimise flood risks. However, PUB cannot minimise flood risks on its own. Building owners must ensure that flood prevention measures in their developments remain effective. Contractors must also implement proper flood prevention measures at their worksites. We have seen cases of contractors failing to do so, resulting in floods in their locations.

This brings me to the flash flood incident that occurred on 20 August 2021. This flash flood was reported at the junction of Tampines Avenue 10 and Pasir Ris Drive 12 towards TPE entrance at around 8.00 am. PUB’s Quick Response Team was immediately deployed to assist drivers and pedestrians, together with SCDF and Police. PUB also issued advisories to motorists and members of the public to avoid the area.

This location is not a flood-prone area and the drainage system is more than adequate to cope with the rainfall intensity experienced on 20 August 2021. PUB’s investigations found that the contractor carrying out road widening works along Tampines Avenue 10 had altered the public drainage system there without PUB’s approval. As a result, storm water could not discharge effectively into downstream Sungei Api Api.

PUB does not condone such illegal works and will be pressing charges against the contractor under the Sewerage and Drainage Act.

Under the Sewerage and Drainage Act, no one can carry out any works to alter our storm water drainage system without PUB’s approval. PUB also requires contractors working in the vicinity of any watercourse to put in place measures to prevent construction materials from falling and choking up the drainage system. PUB takes a serious view of all works that affect our public drainage system. We have reminded all contractors to comply with the requirements and will take enforcement action against errant contractors.