Singapore to Achieve Cleaner Air by 2020
Grace Chua – Straits Times
Singapore. Singapore is aiming for cleaner air and has set 2020 as the deadline to make this happen.
To work towards this, it has adopted World Health Organization guidelines on air quality as a target.
Until now, Singapore had used these guidelines only as benchmarks.
To achieve cleaner air, more stringent anti-pollution measures for vehicles, refineries and power generation companies will have to be introduced.
In the next two years, for example, the sulphur content of fuels will be pared down.
And from April 1, 2014, new petrol vehicles here must meet cleaner Euro IV vehicle tailpipe emission standards, up from the current Euro II standard that has been in place since 2001.
The announcement came from Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan Wednesday.
He was speaking at the Singapore Environmental Achievement Awards ceremony at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel.
He also said that instead of just aiming for annual targets for cleaner air, 24-hour targets will have to be met when it comes to some pollutants.
He also disclosed that, from today, information on air quality here will be pumped out thrice a day instead of just once, as it can fluctuate over the course of the day.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) will put this out on its website (www.nea.gov.sg) at 8 a.m., noon and 4 p.m.
NEA will also report the level of PM2.5 – that is, the level of fine particles in the air – thrice a day. Up until now, only annual levels of this have been published.
PM2.5 encompasses airborne matter, such as soot particles, which are a fraction of the diameter of a human hair. These pollutants can get lodged deep in one’s lungs and bloodstream, posing health risks.
Asked why it has taken so long to move to more stringent emission and fuel standards, Balakrishnan said such steps take time to coordinate with refineries and car importers.
He added, however, that Singapore could adopt the even stricter Euro V emission standards for petrol vehicles “in the not so long term.”
On whether achieving cleaner air would mean pricier cars, he said that the variation in certificate of entitlement (COE) prices “far exceeds any difference in prices due to improved technology in our vehicles.”
He added, “Fumes from motor vehicles and industries affect every single Singaporean. I think this is a price worth paying.”
Environmental activists and think-tanks like the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) have long pressed for more air quality data and higher air quality standards.
SIIA director Nicholas Fang welcomed the new information on PM2.5 as it would raise awareness of air pollution. But he said the “trickier part of the equation” was altering people’s behavior, such as leaving car engines idling.
Teacher Tang Beng Yong, 40, who has a keen interest in environmental issues, said the reporting of PM2.5 was “a step in the right direction” and suggested that a night reading also be published.
Erik Velasco, who studies air pollution at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, said the move to limit the sulphur content of fuels comes late for a country like Singapore, which has a strong refinery industry.
“Low-sulphur fuels should not be a problem for a country with a strong refinery industry,” he said.
He also suggested publishing the levels of other pollutants that make up the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI), the location of air quality sensors, and how this reported data is calculated.
Reprinted courtesy of The Straits Times