Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied): Mr Chairman, Sir, heat inequality is an issue I spoke on in last year’s climate Motion in Parliament. The number of very hot days where the real feel temperature, considering humidity, exceeds 40 degrees has increased by about eight times since the 1950s to over 80 days each year now. The situation is serious.
The Government mentioned one year ago that it is working on an urban heat impact mitigation action plan. I would like to ask the Minister for an update and propose that the action plan consider lower-income groups and blue collar workers, including migrant workers.
Firstly, on prioritising low-income groups. The cheapest air conditioners cost about 60 cents per hour for electricity. So, many less well-off residents head to air conditioned spaces like malls and libraries, which are important for the hottest days in the year. There is not always space at the library though.
From what I understand, the Green Towns Programme does not prioritise vulnerable neighbourhoods. Can we quickly provide good stopgap measures for such vulnerable areas? We already know where the warmest areas in Singapore are through Landsat thermal images and these places often have high concentrations of HDB rental blocks. We could focus our OneMillionTrees project on areas where vulnerable people live.
We also have a programme providing vouchers for households to buy high-efficiency appliances like fridges but can we extend this to include fans and include more households? Moreover, can we look into including living space temperature requirements under the building control regulations?
I would also like to ask what are the Government’s targets to retrofit all estates to deal with the urban heat island effect?
Next, on blue collar workers. Blue collar workers face the short end of the stick. For shift workers, it can be really hot sleeping during the day. This reduces sleep quality and quantity, which have an impact on workplace safety. Studies show that driving on low-quality sleep can be as dangerous as drink-driving.
With migrant workers, many have spoken about why they choose to sleep on the floor or on hard boards without bedding. The heat can be unbearable because, very often, you have 16 workers in a room and many dormitories have metal roofing and walls.
NEA recently released a Good Environmental Health Practices statement. However, there are no legally binding measures regarding heat management. With the MOM employers’ guide for domestic workers, there is no definition for “adequate ventilation”.
In 2017, one of our non-governmental organisations (NGOs) even reported that a domestic worker was made to sleep on the balcony. Of course, most employers put in effort to ensure workers have decent living conditions but let us work towards stricter binding guidelines so that no worker is left behind.
7 March 2022
Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment