Tapping students for ideas to tackle global water woes

Tapping students for ideas to tackle global water woes

Could a global water bank help manage the world's water fairly? Why should water-rich nations save water? Is regulation the only way to stop factories from polluting rivers?

The questions at an international water summit yesterday flew thick and fast to an expert panel that included the Norwegian and Dutch ambassadors to Singapore, business and government body heads, and a former senior scientific adviser to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

However the distinguished panellists were not being quizzed by their peers, but rather by a hall of students aged just 14 to 18 years.

More than 130 students from 15 nations including Singapore, Australia, Japan, China, Germany, the Netherlands, Thailand and Colombia were attending the inaugural "Water is Life" RI-Maurick International Water Conference at Raffles Institution (RI).

Organised by RI and Maurick College in the Netherlands, the five-day summit from yesterday aims to help young people better understand global water issues and how to solve them.

RI's senior deputy principal S. Magendiran told the students: "How do we grow in wisdom as a world on this issue of water? As young people, you will hopefully come to this question with fresher eyes and more idealism than adults like us."

The conference opened with a panel which explained to students why water remains a critical global issue. Up to half of the world's seven billion people still do not have ready access to safe drinking water, said founder of the Third World Centre for Water Management Asit Biswas. The problem, he stressed, is not a lack of water or funding, but poor management by governments and local authorities.

"My generation has made a mess with water management," said Professor Biswas. "I hope your generation will do much better and improve the situation."

Students will hear from invited scientists, give presentations, and learn how Newater - a form of high-grade recycled water - is made.

"I hope to bring a big change back to Japan by bringing ideas back home," said 16-year-old Hiro Kawakatsu from Shibuya Senior High School in Tokyo.

There are plans to hold the conference every two years, with the Netherlands and Australia pencilled in as future venues.


This article was first published on June 10, 2014.
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