SPEECH BY DR YAACOB IBRAHIM,MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES, AT THE INTERNATIONAL WATER FORUM 2005, 22 APRIL 2005, 10.00 AM AT THE RELC INTERNATIONAL HOTELProf Leo Tan Chairman, NYAA Council
Ladies and gentlemen
I am very pleased to join you this morning at the launch of the inaugural International Water Forum 2005. This forum will focus on sustaining our water resources for future generations – a critical challenge for many countries. Today is also a significant day, being Earth Day, and this year’s theme “Protect Our Children and Our Future” is indeed appropriate. I am heartened to see many young people in the audience today, not only from Singapore, but also from several countries in the Asia Pacific region and beyond. Your presence at this forum is indeed very significant.
Theme for forum: “Water For Life”
2 The theme for the International Water Forum 2005 is “Water for Life”. This is fitting as the United Nations has declared 2005 to 2014 as the Decade of “Water for Life”. Through this, the UN hopes to promote international efforts to achieve targets on water and water-related issues, including sanitation and pollution control, by 2015. I would like to reiterate Singapore’s strong support of the UN in this regard.
3 One of the key issues the UN has identified is water scarcity. Many people around the world face water shortages; in some cases it is even life-threatening. In Singapore, while we have access to an adequate and secure water supply, we do not take our water resources for granted. We teach our people from young, ways of saving water. It can be as simple as choosing to brush your teeth using a mug of water instead of a running tap. I believe that those who appreciate the importance of using water wisely from a very young age, will practice good water-saving habits throughout their life.
4 Besides conserving water, we also want to drive home the message of valuing our water resources.
5 This means making a conscious effort to not litter in our waterways, such as drains and canals. This is important as such waterways eventually flow into our reservoirs.
6 The need to protect our waterways is even more important now that we are going ahead with the construction of the Marina Barrage. This will turn the Marina Bay, located in the heart of downtown, into a freshwater reservoir by 2009. This will mean that one-sixth of the most built-up area of Singapore will be turned into a water catchment area. The WaterWays Watch Society, one of our NGO partners, is actively educating people, on the importance of keeping our waterways clean and has organised many opportunities for our youth to go on waterway cleaning expeditions right in the heart of downtown.
7 Indeed, it would be difficult to convey the need to conserve and value water without involving the element of enjoyment. Many of you are easily attracted to water sports. You have many opportunities to do so at our reservoirs with activities such as kayaking, wakeboarding, and sailing. It is our desire that in the course of enjoying the clean waters of the reservoirs, you will foster a closer relationship with water and do your best to protect it, that is, to be a guardian of our water resources.
8 I have described some ways in which we in Singapore have tried to drive home the important messages of conserving, valuing and enjoying water. The opportunity for all of us here to understand the concerns, constraints and choices that confront countries will help us learn more about how to better manage our precious resource of water. This knowledge will enable us to meaningfully discuss how youths can play a more active role in fostering a better understanding for more responsible use and conservation of water.
Creative way of communicating water message
9 Four final-year undergraduates from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have shown how they can bring across the message of water conservation creatively. In a pilot project organised with the PUB for primary schools, the youths came up with both an interactive skit and song which was performed at schools, and also designed creative learning materials that were distributed to students. These imaginative ways of communicating the water conservation message were really useful in getting the primary school students to appreciate what it means to play their part in saving water.
10 I also understand that you will be visiting the WaterHub. This is a centre for technology, learning and networking for partners and stakeholders in water. It was opened last December. When you visit the Waterhub, you will get a chance to see how the pillars and walls have been transformed to tell the Singapore water story. Students from the NTU, Nanyang Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic created these visual exhibits to show how far we have come in terms of managing our water resources with the help of technology, so much so that we are now able to produce ultra-clean water from reclaimed used water. These exhibits are a good example of how the young can lend their creative minds and help educate everyone on the significant role water plays in our lives.
Opportunity to translate creative ideas into action
11 Today’s forum is indeed an excellent opportunity for young minds to interact and bring together creative and fun ideas to promote awareness on water-related issues. These can then be translated into action and practiced in our daily lives, schools, communities and forums. If all of us can go back from this forum and try to implement some of those ideas which we will be discussing here, no matter how small the efforts may be, I think the goals of this forum would have been more than achieved.
Review of Singapore Green Plan 2012
12 Besides water, we should also ensure that we maintain our good air quality, effective waste management system and practices, and high standards of public health, so that our future generations will enjoy what we have today.
13 The Singapore Green Plan 2012 (SGP2012) released by my ministry three years ago is Singapore’s 10-year blue-print towards environmental sustainability. It is highly focused and action-oriented in setting out Singapore’s response to the challenges of sustaining a quality environment. Since 2002, six action plan committees have been set up to carry out many initiatives to help meet some of our key targets under waste management, conserving nature, clean air, water supply, public health and international collaboration.
Why the three-yearly review
14 But continual changes and challenges in our global environment require us to constantly re-look at our existing environmental strategies and to pursue new ideas and ways that would further contribute towards environmental sustainability. For example, while we have progressed well in the last few years to increase the public and industry participation in recycling, what else can we do to further raise the recycling rate? Similarly, are there better ways to ensure that our people will continue to conserve and value our precious water resources? These are just some of the many challenges we have to address. Therefore, a three-yearly review of our current plans and targets under the Singapore Green Plan 2012 is timely now.
15 Three focus groups have been formed to address the challenges we face in the areas of air, water and clean land, nature and public health. Discussions and ideas among representatives from the 3P (Private, Public, People) sectors will contribute towards making the Singapore Green Plan 2012 programmes more robust and relevant. We will also seek public feedback through an online consultation and a public forum later on.
16 This three-yearly review is an important exercise. We hope that through this review, all of us would become more aware of the environmental challenges that we face as a nation, and be more proactive to do our part so that together, we can meet these challenges and ensure that we have a sustainable environment for our future generations. I urge everyone here to also play an active role in shaping this vision. Send us your ideas and suggestions during this public consultation exercise.
17 So I am pleased that in Singapore, we have the NYAA Council, which helps to encourage our young people to play an active role in nurturing the youth through various environmental activities and projects. Together with their partners in the public sector such as the NEA and PUB and a very strong corporate partner in the HSBC, they are able to create greater awareness of the environment among young people. Also, I must not to forget the youth leaders with us today who have committed themselves to taking personal ownership and responsibility of the environment and water resources. Thank you all and I wish you a very fruitful forum.
18 On this note, it is now my pleasure to declare the International Water Forum 2005 open.