Friday, June 28, 2013

NEA reveals haze contingency plans for essential services - eco-business.com

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has put in place haze contingency plans for essential services like dengue inspections, waste collection and public cleaning.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan revealed this during his visit to several blocks in the Bukit Panjang Division on Wednesday morning.

He was there to inspect waste collection and dengue wipeout operations.

Dr Balkrishnan also gave assurance that Singapore's tap water is safe to drink.

The waterworks at Chestnut Avenue supply a third of Singapore's water needs.

National water agency PUB has been monitoring the quality over the past weeks - both raw and treated water distributed to the public.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "Whatever happens, your water will continue to flow from your tap, the water is going to be good and safe to drink, and that's the key message of continuity and safety of our water supply."

And in the event of a worsened haze scenario, PUB says work will still go on as the plant is self-sufficient in terms of manpower, technology and electricity supply.

For dengue inspections, NEA operations will continue with minimal disruptions.

All officers checking public areas will don N95 face masks in accordance with the health advisories issued.

Dengue inspections have remained in a stepped-up mode as the epidemic is still sustained with 842 cases last week and 268 this week.

In the event the haze worsens again and is prolonged, NEA may consider scaling back the hours of outdoor work.

However, indoor checks in homes and application of insecticides will continue.

On waste collection, NEA will reduce refuse collection frequency from daily collection to alternate days.

This is because manpower is expected to suffer a shortfall during severe haze conditions.

Dr Balkrishnan said: "Worst-case scenario would be for landed estates, if the PSI goes into 300, 400 range, we may have to reduce the frequency of collection, we may not be able to achieve it on a daily basis, that's really an extreme circumstance.

"In HDB estates we may have to stagger, reduce the total workload on our cleaners. But if we all do our part, keep our neighbourhoods clean there shouldn't be any significant impact on the ground."

As for ensuring public cleanliness, NEA will reduce the cleaning frequency according to the haze condition.

Urgent work such as the cleaning of animal carcasses and spillages will be given priority.

As to whether schools will re-open on Monday when the June holidays end, Dr Balakrishnan said the main issue is safety.

Dr Balkrishnan said: "Our key consideration is the safety of our children, I have got a Primary One son myself, so we will open only if we are convinced we are safe. Secondly, MOE will take all the necessary precautions so that even if we open, if we need to respond on an urgent basis, we can do so.

"Over the next couple of days, MOE will be in touch to keep parents and students informed. The paramount consideration is the safety of our children."

He said the latest satellite pictures on Tuesday showed that the total volume of haze generated from hotspots in Sumatra is still significant.

And expectations are the haze in the region is likely to persist for sometime more. As such, Singapore remains at risk. 


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