Social media drive to curb binge drinking

PHOTO: Social media drive to curb binge drinking

SINGAPORE - Binge drinking is uncool and unattractive.

That is the message to be spelt out in a social media campaign planned for early next year, partly in response to the recent drownings of intoxicated revellers in the Singapore River.

The campaign is being managed by Singapore River One (SRO) - a private sector-led partnership charged with the day-to-day management, maintenance and enhancement of the river.

It is one of the group's planned initiatives to curb binge drinking in the area and tackle the problem of intoxicated behaviour near the water.

Another move SRO is proposing is to mark the area as a no-alcohol zone.

In just the last fortnight, two men drowned in separate incidents after jumping into the river.

One was confirmed to have been drunk, while the other is suspected to have been that way.

According to the Singapore Civil Defence Force, the number of Singapore River rescue cases has doubled since 2010, when there were six. There were 13 last year, and there have been 12 known cases so far this year, a figure that may rise after the New Year parties.

The river banks' public walkways have been classified as state land, although the respective building owners have been responsible for their maintenance.

With the founding of SRO in August, management has been consolidated, and executive director Ty Tabing told The Sunday Times that he hopes to work with government officials to prevent further accidents.He said SRO will not hesitate to push for strong measures, such as a United States-style ban on drinking in public areas.

"It seems like an aggressive solution could make sense at this point, but hopefully smaller steps such as trying to shame people into behaving will work before it comes to that," said Mr Tabing, an American.

He said SRO has already been in touch with Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Indranee Rajah, who proposed an alcohol-free zone in Robertson Quay last year.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has yet to respond to that idea.An MHA spokesman said the police are working with the other authorities to see how such problems can be addressed.

They are "studying the feasibility of imposing a 'no-alcohol' zone, but no decision has been taken".

Ms Rajah also told The Sunday Times that nationwide bans may not be necessary yet, but the best idea could be area-specific alcohol-free zones.

"There is increased danger in those places because people are drinking and the river is nearby," she said.

"If you don't have accompanying legislation, when a police officer goes to somebody who's drinking there and says, 'Sir please don't drink', the guy is going to say, 'Under what rule?'"

Reactions of those who frequent or work at riverfront nightspots were mixed.

Mrs Fransisca Boogert, a communications manager for some restaurants and bars at Clarke Quay, said: "It wouldn't affect the crowds coming into the restaurants and pubs here because they are completely distinct from the ones on the bridges and by the river, who can't really afford to drink in these establishments."

University graduate Daryl Yeo, 25, said: "This is a short-sighted solution... People could just binge drink somewhere else before arriving at those areas drunk."

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