The High Commission of Canada in Singapore hosted a talk on “Water Security: A Global Issue, An Individual Need” at the National University of Singapore (NUS) on 27 April 2016. In the opening address by Ms. Heather Grant, the High Commissioner, she mentioned that while we do not face a shortage of water in Singapore nor in Canada now, we ought to start taking steps to ensure water security in the long-term. Climate change is one of the greatest water-related risks today, and many people have already suffered from this in the form of depleting water resources and quality.
On that note, two speakers presented their perspectives on the responses from state and non-state actors to the impending water crisis. Dr. Wu Huijuan, a Research Fellow from the Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS, shared the Singapore government’s current strategies to maintain water resilience. Through the diversification of water supply and the Active, Beautiful and Clean Waters programme, Singapore manages to spread the risks and also engage the community to develop ownership over our water resources.
Mr. Wilson Ang, Executive Director of Global Compact Network Singapore, complemented the first presentation by sharing his views on the responses from the different types of non-state actors. He highlighted some of the relevant actors in Singapore and their responses, consisting of NGOs and civil society; academics and researchers; businesses; the media and our trade unions. Each of them has a unique role and serves to address the gaps where the government’s reach is limited. Within each of these groups, the different actors should explore collaborative relationships to align themselves to the same cause.
Concluding the event was a screening of “Watermark”, the award-winning Canadian documentary on water. Through a series of beautiful water-related stories around the globe – the desiccated Colorado River Delta, Xiluodu Dam in China, leather tanneries in Dhaka – it highlighted our interconnectedness with water. It emphasised how water is vital to our daily lives and culture, and also showed the consequences of that use.
Going forward, adaptation strategies will no longer be sufficient to deal with water and climate-related risks. There is a need for a structural change, which can only be driven if we build a movement together, across different stakeholders, state and non-state. As Mr. Ang shared in his presentation, we will have to plant “seeds of change in every generation” to inspire fundamental mindset shifts. Professor Leo Tan from the Department of Biological Sciences, NUS and active advocate for the environmental cause, with whom we had the honour to interact at the event, echoed the sentiment as he too believes the future generations will have to take the reins in time to come.
[Photo: Mr Wilson Ang, Executive Director of GCNS, Heather Grant, High Commissioner of Canada to Singapore and Dr. Wu Huijuan, a Research Fellow from the Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS]