CONTRIBUTING: Volunteers picking up litter at East Coast Park.

Okay for volunteers to fine offenders?

The National Environment Agency (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill passed yesterday gives individuals such as community volunteers the powers an NEA officer has when it comes to environmental offences. But the bill was passed only after a lively debate. FOO JIE YING ( reports on both sides of the argument

YES: Everyone has active part to play

YES, community volunteers should be given enforcement powers.

Everyone needs to play an active role in keeping Singapore clean.

By expanding the Community Volunteer (CV) programme, passionate individuals can take greater ownership of our environment, and better complement the National Environment Agency's (NEA) enforcement efforts, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli.

When the CV programme was launched in 2013, volunteers, made up of civic group members, had the power only to ask offenders to pick up and bin their rubbish.

If they refuse, volunteers can only take down their particulars.

Now, a passionate individual who is not from any civic group can join the programme. They can fine litterbugs on the spot. (See report above.)

As someone in a non-governmental organisation for the past 15 years, first-time MP Louis Ng welcomed the move.

"This empowerment of volunteers is something that will be welcome, especially by the animal welfare groups," said Mr Ng, who founded the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society.

"It's also for the community to play a part rather than for the Government to do everything," he added.


The concept of empowering civilians is not new, said Nee Soon MP Lee Bee Wah as she cited Mumbai and Britain as examples.

As a ground-up initiative, it will help foster social norms, said Ms Lee, who runs a monthly litter-picking programme in her ward.

"I hope it will remind would-be litterbugs that there are eyes around them. There are people who love, who care for the environment watching them all the time," she said.

Ang Mo Kio MP Gan Thiam Poh agreed: "With more eyes and ears on the ground, we are taking a step in the right direction to eradicate littering."