Singapore is a grubby, trash-laden metropolis

From ‘Cleanliness on the decline’, 28 June 2011, ST Forum

(James Cruikshank): I AM a Canadian who visited Singapore in 1995 for two weeks. It was the cleanest city I had ever been to. I came back a year later, and again was impressed by how immaculate the country was.

I returned on June 2 this year to enjoy Singapore’s famous food and the Great Singapore Sale, but was very disappointed. The cleanliness of the city is gone. I spent days walking and taking public transport to various parts of the city, and noticed an appalling amount of paper and plastic rubbish in the parks and on the streets.

I asked those I met why there was a litter problem, and one common comment was that it was due to the people’s attitude. Another common response was: ‘It’s the immigrants.’

…I soon witnessed acts of littering and it infuriated me. A woman with her teenage son and daughter tossed a green plastic drink bag over a railing onto the grass. I yelled at her from down the street, but she just laughed. I saw a construction worker walking past a rubbish bin and placing a can on a wall a farther 10m away, before continuing on his way.

It really upsets me to see the once-pristine Singapore turning into just another grubby, trash-laden metropolis. This litter problem is a blight on Singapore’s reputation, and I hope Singaporeans will address this disrespect for their country.

One way is for people to take all rubbish with them after leaving public places and place it in a trash bin, and not on the ground, a wall, a bench or in the park. Community groups can get together to clean up the streets in their neighbourhoods. The city can promote cleanliness through mass media campaigns.

Has it come to this? That we Singaporeans have become so environmentally hopeless that we need a Canadian to give us a step by step guide to how to throw rubbish (place it in a trash bin)? Overcrowding is a key factor, and perhaps the ‘immigrant’ finger-pointers are on to something, though what’s sorely lacking in us as a people, is pride in our surroundings. Kudos to the writer here for the daring-do to tick off litterers and taking us for children when the enforcers  and ministry are sleeping on the job, though having volunteers to pick the streets clean will only fuel the servant mentality endemic in our people; that it’s someone else’s job, not ours. The secret to our once honorable reputation as a garden city is an army of foreign labour to do the dirty work behind the scenes, not  fines or campaigns, and even that can’t save us now. I’ve noticed the changes myself over the years; Rubbish bins overflow over weekends, people dump old furniture and obsolete gadgets at the void deck, empty bubble tea plastic cups get left all over the place, rats as big as kittens near kopitiams. A disgraceful accumulation of waste and vermin brought about by rampant affluence and complacent consumerism infecting a generation utterly dependent on maids and cleaners, taking for granted that someone will clear up the mess the next day anyway.  We don’t leave our stuff lying around at home, which goes to show how much we treat our country as one.

It’s interesting to see how foreigners have viewed us over the years, take some time to reflect on how we were once rated the ‘cleanest city in the world’, and ask ourselves ‘What the hell happened, Singapore?’

Untitled, 29 Jan 1972, ST, H.F Frost, London

Singapore seems well on its way to being the cleanest city in Asia

Looking forward to this, our fourth visit, 9 April 1981, ST, E.H Day, Australia

We have found Singapore to be without rival in the ranking for the world’s cleanest city

Japanese couple has nothing but praise, 15 Dec 1984, ST, S Kikuchi, Japan

My wife and I are from Japan. We love your beautiful and clean country. Your people are so friendly.

Surprises in City of Inspiration, 8 July1985, ST,  Richard Barone, USA

It is still the cleanest city of its size I have ever seen. It is still a shopper’s and a sun lover’s paradise.

Singapore, a mini world worth visiting, 9 March 1988, ST, Elizabeth Goldsworthy, South Pacific:

Singapore is an exciting kaleidoscope, a mini world worth visiting, to replenish the soul. Clean, green and beautiful…a sense of safety and security…


2 Responses

  1. i am reading this 2 months after it was written and i cldn’t agree more with the canadian letter writer. while singaporeans blame the foreigners, i see too many sporeans littering to believe that excuse (yes, i check!)

    i first realised we were we were slipping badly about 5 yrs ago when i visted namibia in africa. it was eye-opening find the streets clean at midnight in windhoek, the capital — before the cleaners started work. even the black township i visted was free of rubbish!! sporeans are now a bunch of pigs.

    • Yeah it’s pathetic really, knowing that we’re more ‘Third World’ than even Third World countries in this aspect.

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