Queenstown had launched the first community patrol group of Litter Free Ambassadors (LFAs) last week to get litterbugs to pick up trash. That was because enforcement and punishment seemed to be failing in their role in wiping out these group of people. While LFAs were not empowered to arrest litterbugs, they can persuade culprits to pick them up. They would also serve as the "eyes and ears" of NEA in providing feedback on the littering issues.
MyQueenstown Team would strongly support a community ground-up approach to apprehend the issue of littering as this helps to create a culture of civic mindedness among Queenstown residents. However, in order to facilitate greater understanding on the problems of littering, especially in hot spots such as Stirling Road and Strathmore Avenue, let us investigate on the root of the problem.
This Student who wears a stripped shirt and carrying a black bag chose to dump his cigarette butt on the floor instead of the bin.
When MyQueenstown team arrived at Stirling Road (towards Queensway) at 11am yesterday, we had spotted huge amount of trash. In less than an hour, we witnessed more than 89 students from MDIS disposing their trash at the lobby of Blk 49 although there are 6 rubbish bins (all of them are within 2m of their reach). These students are noisy, disturbing, rowdy and do not behave like they are university or diploma undergraduates. Many of them were smoking, scolding vulgarities and portraying themselves as an utter nuisance to the public.
When our team approached to a trio of Korean international students after watching them dispose their cigarettes butt at the drain instead of the rubbish bin, they mentioned, "I didn't know I have to dispose the cigarettes at the bin. I am only here in Singapore for the past 2 weeks." We wondered why there were so many students lining up the usually peaceful Stirling Road and lighting the cigarettes and understood that MDIS is a smoke-free campus which disallow their students to smoke there.
Students like the one (wearing black) would munch snacks bought from the Bubbletea kiosk and leave them behind although rubbish bins are a stone's throw away (in the shop and at the car park)
These trio of girls were the ones who left behind all the trash (seen in the photo). We even taped a video of them littering
Before we misunderstood this problem of littering was caused by students from MDIS only, a stroll to the back of Blk 49 would guarantee surprise, disgust and frustration. If any reader of MyQueenstown feels nauseous and needs some assistance to viomit, feel free to take in deep breaths. You don't even need to see a doctor!
Curry sauce thrown on the concrete pavement; Rice thrown by a resident at 2nd floor; Sanitary pads on a plant; Used condoms at the drainage were found. Crows and pigeons were found munching happily on an expected sumptuous meal!
Birds munching on the rice thrown by a resident living on the 2nd floor
Curry stains on the drain cover
MyQueenstown believes that readers are now utterly convinced by how some patrons termed Blk 49 as the "dirtiest block" in Singapore. But this begs the question on why littering is so pervasive? Will LFAs help in reducing the number of litter bugs in the vicinity?
We asked a concern resident, Mrs Tan, who works in Queenstown for 49 years in a fabric and flooring shop and she feels that the idea of setting up LFA would not help much because volunteers have to constantly be on the go!
She mentioned, "When the guest of honour arrived last week, the entire corridor was cleaned and the students appeared to be subdued! But look at the place now! There are many foreigners in this area, whether they study in MDIS or live in the rental apartments upstairs. They do not understand the culture here in Singapore that it is important to keep the environment clean. What is worse is that they are influencing Singaporean students to do bad. I'm not trying to go against the foreigners. But the issue of littering was not serious some years back before the establishment of MDIS and the surge in number of foreigners. Furthermore, when we approach these students and remind them about their civic responsibilities, they will scold us rudely. How unruly they are!"
In order to confirm our findings, we asked Joe, who works in Blk 49 and stays in Blk160+ Stirling Road for 24 years. He concluded, "There are so much rubbish at the back of Blk 49 because offenders understand that no one will patrol the place since it is facing a hill. Perhaps, residents in Blk 49 are also too lazy to come out of their flats and dispose their rubbish at the designated rubbish bin! Therefore, this boils down to attitudes and personalities-which LFAs will find it tough to handle. Many of the students are rebellious and they will not listen to them."
We understood that Joe had enquired opinions from NEA and MDIS. On one hand, officers from NEA did not spot any offenders during their inspection. On the other hand, MDIS served Joe with a snide remark, commenting that "it is not our problem and there is nothing we can do (to solve the problem of littering." What was more fascinating and disturbing was MDIS role as an education institution shirking their responsibility to contribute to the community. MyQueenstown has sent an email to MDIS too, but they didn't reply.
Joe stood in front of his shop
Mary, who opens a saloon in Stirling Road and stays in Blk 150+ Mei Ling Street, has some constructive ideas which MyQueenstown Team agree as well. While she commend the LFA's efforts to promote a clean and green environment, she feels that LFAs will be unable to work effectively without proper equipment and devices such as CCTVs. Moreover, educating the kids is important and suggests that the authorities can work with the school to educate the teenagers not to litter. She cried, "We are opening a hair saloon and we cannot chase away these students who sat in front of our stall shouting and littering for fear of losing more businesses. That's a double whamy for us!"
Mary stands in front of her Hair Saloon
Keeping the environment clean and condusive for the community is everyone's job. While the LFAs embark on their campaign to persuade the residents not to litter, perhaps they can consider on the above scenarios and the suggestions put forth by the residents and patrons we have interviewed. It is disappointing for anyone, including us, to blacklist the "heck care" attitude presented by the management of MDIS and makes us wonder how they are going to stay relevant to the community in the longer term if they do not see Queenstown as their own.
Queenstown is our home, our place of work or school. It is not a rubbish dump!