Hello! Singtel girls

telephone operator.jpg

At a funeral, I met a group of women in their fifties who are the original Singtel girls (Singapore Telecom, then the national telephony company before it privatised). These women started working at Singtel as girls fresh out of high school, as telephone operators, phone book distributors, and some stayed with Singtel for more than 30 years. In 1998 they were retrenched from the Teletext department but not before becoming firm friends. They have seen each other through children, illnesses and they were there for the funeral.

Incredulous that anyone could spend all that time with one company, I hal- teased them, “You mean you gave your youth to Singtel?”

I got an answer I did not expect – “No! a couple of us met our husbands there!”

They must have done a split-second tally-up and decided that that made it all worth it.

DSC01609 singtel.jpg
From L-R Tracy (26 yrs), Doreen (26 yrs), Christine (30 yrs), Daisy (31 yrs), Nancy (31 yrs). Between them they worked for Singtel for 144 years

Artful Dodgers

This is part 3 of the post “How I met my neighbours or why I invited the Minister to my house” in which I published the letter my neighbours and I wrote to the Minister of Environment and the National Environmental Agency about construction noise pollution in our high density neighbourhood in Singapore. We appealed to have a quiet day, one day of the week.

Part 2 details your rights as a Singaporean to have a quiet environment with links to the appropriate legislation. It lets you know that you don’t have much rights because construction can take place 365/yr, 24/7 even in high density residential areas even on Sundays or public holidays, the laws explicity permit that

In this post, I am publishing the letter that NEA in reply to our letter

In the letter NEA proposed setting up a meeting between ourselves and the contractor, ignoring the point we made that we already met the contractor after NEA said they could not do much since the legislation permits the noise. As to their point about having already lowered NEA limits, they also ignore the fact that our homes are only 10-20m away from the construction site. Even a single drill or hammer strike, well within the noise limits, is very loud on a Sunday if your bedroom is by the site. It takes special skill to write such a letter blithely ignoring your points, and reinstating their own.

All we ask for is a Sunday of quiet, free of construction noise in high density neighbourhoods.


27 Jun 2008

Dear Ms Tan,


We refer to your feedback on construction noise at 77 Mergui Road.

2 We had informed you previously that the National Environment Agency (NEA) controls construction noise using a set of maximum permissible noise limits stipulated under the Environmental Protection and Management (Control of Noise at Construction sites) Regulations. Construction companies are required to take noise abatement measures and manage their works to comply with the noise limits.

3 The permissible noise limits for construction sites near to residential premises at night, and on Sunday and public holidays had been tightened since 1 Oct 07. The revised noise limits for such worksites are now the same as the noise limits for worksites that are near to noise sensitive premises such as hospitals and schools.

4 The construction company undertaking the project at the said worksite has set up a noise monitoring instrument to continuously measure the noise levels from the construction works. We have checked the noise monitoring results and found that the noise levels were within the permissible limits, including the more stringent limits for Sundays and public holidays. Notwithstanding this, we have advised the contractor to rescheduled noisy works in order to minimise noise on Sundays and public holidays.

5 We will monitor closely the worksite and we will not hesitate to take enforcement action against the construction company should he carry out noisy work that exceeds the permissible noise limits.

6 If you are agreeable, we will arrange a date convenient to you and the affected residents to meet up with the management of the construction company. The meeting will give you an opportunity to give your feedback to the management of the company and for the company to explain the measures it had taken to reduce noise emission from its construction site.

7 If you need further clarification or would like to provide further feedback to us, please contact me at DID: 67319137 or Mr Khairul Sani Samsudin at DID: 67319664 or call NEA hotline at 1800-CALL NEA (1800-2255 632). Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Rahmad bin Sidek
For Director
Pollution Control Department
The National Environment Agency

Permissible noise limits

This is a follow up from my previous post “How I met my neighbours or why I invited the Minister to my home”

Contrary to what people think, building construction can take place in Singapore 24/7 at 365 days/year even in high density residential areas. The regulations permit it.

See it for yourself. Download the NEA regulations here. Choose “Control of Noise at Construction site”, page 4

If your construction site is within 150m from a residential area, you can bang away in flagrante as long as you don’t exceed these “permissible construction noise limits”

7am-7pm >> 75 dBA

7pm-10pm >> 65 dBA

10pm-7am >> 55 dBA

These permissible levels are high and skew far in favour of the contractor. You can technically bang away at 3am too, you are allowed. The regulations do not diifferentiate between weekdays and Sundays/PH

If you are lucky, you will live beside a site with reasonable contractors, others are not so lucky. For us over here, we have been suffering for more than 15 months.

We have called and appealed to the NEA to no avail.

The regulations need to change, now. This is where a “light touch pro-business” approach should not apply

I speak for all those out there who have to decamp, shutter our homes on Sundays to escape the din and why should we? Its our home too

How I met my neigbours

(or why I invited the Minister to lie on my bed)

My 24 neighbours and I wrote a letter to the National Environmental Agency NEA to complain about construction noise on Sundays and Public Holidays in our neighbourhood, we asked for a Sunday free of construction noise because it has been disrupting to our Sundays for 18 months. Sheer desparation brought us together, I had up until then, never spoken to most of them. This letter was sent out in June but the construction noise has continued to this day, even on X’mas day! NEA knows the problem since they have been inaundated with calls. Yet they are slow to react. Who are they protecting?

National Environment Agency
40 Scotts Road
Environment Building #13-00
Singapore 228231

15 June 08

Dear Sir

Appeal to ban construction in high-density neighbourhoods on Sundays and public holidays

We represent 25 households living in two 11-storey high apartment blocks that flank a construction site, 77 Mergui Road. They are building a 19 -storey condominium on this construction site and our blocks are 20 –30m away from it. The developer is Fragrance Properties Pte Ltd. They have been building 7 days a week including Sundays and public holidays and they will continue for the next 10 months according to the hoarding signboard.

We are writing to you because we are at our wits end with what to do about the disruption caused to our lives by the construction noise that has bombarded our homes on Sundays/Public Holidays for the past 8 months.

Sundays for most of us is our only rest day and that has been made impossible by the loud construction noise. Some of us are forced to leave our homes on Sunday. This is the case on all Public Holidays too. Even Labour Day, a day you would expect the workers to be given a rest day! If you do not intervene, including the 8 months that we have already suffered, it would 18 months of lost Sundays and public holidays for us.

We would not be writing to you if our numerous complaints to NEA and also to the worksite foreman were not futile. When a complaint is made to NEA, officers who visit the site tell us that the noise the workers make is within the “permissible limits”, there is nothing the officers can do but to “advise the contractor” to be more considerate. Meanwhile, they will continue to “monitor the situation”. Unfortunately, the monitoring has not yielded any sustained result. There are Sundays when the workers deign to stop the noise at 5pm, but this is ad hoc. They continue the work again the early next Sunday. Obviously this softly approach of “advising the contractor” does not work.

Meanwhile, when we approach the contractors, they ignore our pleas because they say that they are working within the limits NEA set. Besides they are behind schedule so they need to work 7 days a week.

The issue is that the permissible levels that your department has set needs to be re-reviewed urgently. We would like you to ban construction on worksites on Sundays/PH where there are high-density dwellings very near the work site. If you feel that a ban is too draconian, we tell you that it is not. Try waking up every Sunday to hammering and welding sounds right outside your bedroom. Our homes, I mentioned before are less than 30m from the site. Enclosed is a picture taken from the lift lobby of 81 Mergui Rd, next door to the site. See how close we are to the site.

Pasted Graphic.jpg

If one of your jobs is to balance the competing needs of different constituents of Singapore, we want to inform you that the permissible noise limits skew too far in favour of the developer. We urge you to make Singapore a pleasant place for all to live, not just for developers and contractors.

We are not complaining about noise per say. We can bear construction noise from Monday to Saturday. All we ask is that we residents are allowed to rest in peace on Sundays/PH, just one day of the week. After all, what does it mean to “live in Singapore”, if living here means having to put up with this din 365 days a year and for such a prolonged period of time?

We would like to have a dialogue with you about this issue. We would also like to invite you to our homes on Sunday so that you can hear for yourself the construction din that we suffered these past 8 months and will have to put up for 10 more if you allow this to continue.

This letter carries only 25 representative signatures from each affected household, but it represents many more within each household who are affected, children, elderly who are unable to speak for themselves.

Together, all we ask is a Sunday of peace and quiet in our homes.

Thank you,

Tan Pin Pin (Contact person) This is signed by representatives of 24 other households.

cc CEO NEA, Chairman NEA, Minister MEWR

Pt 2 Rights of Singapore to have a quiet Sunday
Pt 3 Reply from the NEA to the letter above