The Major Causes of Air Pollution in Singapore and the Effective Solutions to Address the Air Pollution Problem

Categories: Air Pollution

Examine the principal causes of air pollution in a city or geographical area of your choice and evaluate the effectiveness of different solutions which have been taken to address the situation.

Together with the development of human civilization, air pollution is the inevitable consequence, which is considered a drawback of economic success around the world. In other words, air pollution is a global problem that affects both government and individuals. Being a developed country in South East Asia, Singapore is one of the cleanest countries not only in South East Asia but also in the world.

However, three decades ago, after it separated from Malaysia, air pollution in Singapore made a variety of negative effects on people’s health and the economy. Researchers have shown that the main sources of air pollution in Singapore were the burning of fossil fuels, waste materials, and transportation (Lian, 2009). To tackle this issue, the Singapore government used different effective solutions. This essay will examine the principal causes and evaluate the effective solutions to address air pollution in Singapore.

Unlike developed countries in Europe where air pollution has appeared a hundred years ago, air pollution in Singapore occurred a half-century later (Lian, 2009). After gaining independence in 1965, Singapore’s industrialization and urbanization process were focused on by the government. Over the past few decades, Singapore has achieved astonishing economic achievements and become a “new tiger” in Asia. Singapore’s annual GDP growth rate from the 1960s to the 1990s has averaged about 8 percent, more than three times the US growth rate (Cahyadi, Kursten, Weiss, and Yang, 2004).

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However, air pollution is a product of economic activity and tends to increase with economic growth in Singapore. At this time, Singapore faced serious air pollution the worst period of air pollution in Singapore’s history (ADB, 2006).

Scientists have shown that the main sources of air pollution in Singapore in the past were the burning of fossil fuels for energy generation in industries, power stations, and the transportation sector. In the industry field, Singapore used fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas to provide energy for the factories. The appearance of industrial zones, industrial towns, factories, and power stations made significant changes that help the economy increase sharply. But on the other side, it made various negative impacts on air quality using fossil fuels. For instance, approximately 141,100 kilo tonnes of total emissions from the burning of fossil fuels in 2006 led to seriously polluted air (Hart, 2006). The statistics of the Singapore government show that in 2001 air pollution reached high levels (p 17). Other research claimed that oil refining was also the cause of air pollution in Singapore (Hart, 2006). In addition, the development of transportation also contributed to many negative effects on air pollution. The number of transport,  rt means rose rapidly from 708,000 (2001) to 960,000 (2010) leading to traffic congestion and environmental problems (Kim, 2012). Besides the main causes, other sources of air pollution in Singapore were the burning of waste materials and transboundary smoke haze that comes from some countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

These data are noticeable and clear evidence of the air pollution in Singapore in the past few decades. The impacts of air pollution on Singapore’s economy and people’s health were serious. In 1997, about 30 percent of outpatient in Singapore was ascertained to coincide with air pollution; 19 percent of asthma and 26 percent of rhinitis were associated with the increase in smog (ADB, 2006). Research by the National University of Singapore has shown that the total economic cost of particular air pollution for Singapore was 3,622 million US dollars, which was approximately 4.31 percent of Singapore’s GDP in 1999. Singapore was concerned about air pollution factors that can affect the economy and people’s health, therefore the government introduced solutions to deal with air pollution problems.

Complex policies with various levels were introduced to clean up air pollution in a generation such as legislation, clean air plans, programs, guidelines, initiatives, and codes of practice on pollution control (Lian, 2009). There were a variety of laws passed regarding clean air, focused on vehicular pollution and large-scale industrialization. At the same time, the 1971 Air Act was passed together with several rules and regulations, all of which aimed at preventing and controlling air pollution. After that, the clean air standards, Environmental pollution control act, and Air impurities were also introduced. These air pollution laws focused on stationary sources such as industries, power stations, and oil refineries; mobile sources such as motor vehicles, and other sources such as waste burning (ADB, 2006). In addition, Singapore established a Code of practice on pollution control; published several guidelines to tackle air pollution problems.

On the stationary and area sources field, the Singapore government encouraged the larger use of natural gas in place of fossil fuels in industrial boilers and power stations. The result is that over 70 percent of electricity in Singapore was generated from the use of natural gas (ADB, 2006). All industries were required to install air pollution control equipment to ensure that the emissions are limited and all fossil fuel burning equipment was allowed to use only fuels with the specification. For instance, any industry within 100m of residential areas, if using fuels must have a sulfur content of not more than 0.005 percent by weight (Lian, 2009). Moreover, the industries were inspected regularly to ensure strict compliance with the standards, which were regulated by the government. Singapore also offered tax incentives to industries that helped companies to use cleaner equipment and more efficient pollution control equipment. Management of mobile sources also was an effective solution that Singapore took to deal with polluted air problems. Transportation in the country has required Euro exhausted emission standards. Furthermore, the government has introduced some laws such as the standard for vehicles in 1986 and 1991; encouraged the use of natural gas which is cleaner than fossil fuels; rebate 20 percent on road tax for transportation using natural gas. Additionally, Singapore also curbed car ownership was dealt with by increasing the purchase and ownership costs of motor vehicles through tariffs (Toh, Rex, 1992).

The solutions have been taken over a long period that made significant changes to Singapore’s air quality. Most of the air pollution causes were controlled and reduced, the air quality was better. For example, lead – is a common pollutant in some cities but is no longer an issue in Singapore since leaded petrol was completely phased out by 1998. Today, only a negligible amount of lead is released by industries. In Singapore, the main sources of PM10, particulate Matter of 10 microns in size, exhaust fumes from motor vehicles, power generation plants, industrial processes, and transboundary pollution have remained stable and below US standards (Singapore green plan, 2012). In a period of ten years (2001 – 2011), the air pollution levels in Singapore declined sharply: Sulphur Dioxide decreased from 22 ug /m3 in 2001 to 10 ug /m3 in 2011, or Carbon Monoxide fall from 4.2 to 2.0 mg /m3 in the same period (Kim. W, 2012). Nowadays, Singapore is one of the cleanest countries in the world as well as a sophisticated urban, industrialized city-state with air quality is better than other countries.

In conclusion, although Singapore has some of the main sources and effects of air pollution that are similar to other countries, Singapore has tackled them with effective solutions. After over a half-century, Singapore now is well-known as a clean and green city with the government striving for environmental sustainability while growing the economy. Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore ensured: “Together, we can ensure that Singapore remains a vibrant and liveable nation for our future generations” (National Climate Change Strategy 2012, p 15). It may be true that the responsibility of the government and individuals is important to reduce the negative effects of air pollution as a precondition for sustainable development. Other countries that have faced the problems of air pollution can apply some effective solutions from Singapore’s experiences, especially using natural gas in place of fossil fuels and management of mobile sources.


Cahyadi, G, Kursten,B, Weiss, M and Yang, G, 2004. Singapore Metropolitan Economic Strategy Report [pdf]

Available at: < %20Report.pdf> [Accessed 2 August 2013).

Kheng-Lian, K. 2009. Singapore Case Study: Cleaning Up Air Pollution in a Generation. [pdf]. Available at: <

.pdf> [Accessed 2 August 2013].

The Asian Development Bank, 2006 Country synthesis report on urban air quality management-Singapore[pdf]

Available at: <> [Accessed 4 August 2013].

Hamilton-Hart, N, 2006. Singapore’s Climate Change Policy [online] Available at: < [Accessed 2 August 2013].

Kim, W, 2012. Yearbook of statistics Singapore [pdf]. Available at: < book_2012/yos2012.pdf> [Accessed 3 August 2013].

Toh, Rex, 2009. Experimental Measures to Curb Road Congestion in Singapore: Pricing and Quotas. Logistics and Transportation Review. 28(3) 1992. pp. 289- 312.

Quah, E& Boonb, T 2003. The economic cost of particulate air pollution on health in Singapore. Journal of Asian Economics. 14 pp. 73-90.

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The Major Causes of Air Pollution in Singapore and the Effective Solutions to Address the Air Pollution Problem. (2022, Jul 24). Retrieved from

The Major Causes of Air Pollution in Singapore and the Effective Solutions to Address the Air Pollution Problem
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