DEFU Lane has the dubious honour of being home to companies which are among the worst industrial polluters.
The industrial estate, which has for more than 30 years housed a hotchpotch of car workshops, scrap metal recyclers and construction firms, is where short cuts are being taken in waste disposal.
For dumping silt and oil into drains, 15 firms there have been fined $2,000 each since January 2008; 110 warning letters have been sent out.
The worrying thing is that the water in Defu’s drains flows into the Marina Reservoir, which national water agency PUB estimates will come to provide for up to 10 per cent of Singapore’s water needs; some of these drains will also eventually discharge their contents into the upcoming Serangoon and Punggol reservoirs.
Although the actual number of firms hauled up for pollution may be higher in other larger industrial estates, the figures are proportionately higher in Defu, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in response to queries from The Straits Times.
The Environmental Protection & Management Act has set the upper limit of fines for companies prosecuted in court at $20,000 for first offenders and $50,000 for repeat offenders.
The pollution issue in Defu is a long- standing one, borne partly out of a lack of proper infrastructure, such as, for example, better roads instead of its bumpy dirt tracks, and proper waste storage tanks.
Anti-pollution guidelines set by the PUB require companies to use proper containers to store liquid and oily waste and to hire licensed contractors to dispose of this waste instead of throwing it into drains. But some companies are not following the guidelines.
With the Marina Reservoir already having been open for two years, the need to clean up Defu, which is part of its 10,000ha urbanised catchment area, has gathered pace.
The NEA, together with PUB and the Housing Board (HDB), has stepped up checks on industrial and commercial hubs in the catchment area, including Ang Mo Kio, Queenstown and Eunos.
Two years ago, the HDB unveiled plans to redevelop Defu, including laying down better roads and transport links, and providing waste storage facilities.
Because of the pending redevelopment, the HDB put about 85 per cent of its 1,000 Defu tenants on fixed-tenancy agreements of between one and three years.
The possibility that the companies may have to move out when the tenancies expire has caused uncertainty, and they are peeved.
A vexed manager of a scrap metal recycling firm who declined to be named said: ‘We invested half a million dollars in new equipment just a year ago. If we have to move out in a year, why would we have moved here in the first place?’
An HDB spokesman explained that it was necessary to rejuvenate Defu ‘to better manage the quality of discharge from the factories to comply with the water pollution control requirement’.
It added that the primary aim of the redevelopment of the estate was to enable tenants to leverage on the area’s prime location.
It declined to elaborate on the redevelopment plan, such as the length of future leases or the types of industries it wanted for Defu.
The spokesman said the current tenants have ‘ample time’ to make relocation plans if necessary.
It added that it held half a dozen focus-group discussions with Defu tenants between May and November last year.
Source: Straits Times, 1 Apr 2010