RI-Maurick Water Conference 2014

From 9 to 13 June, 130 students from 24 schools across 15 countries converged in RI for the RI-Maurick International Water Conference, which is believed to be the first water summit in the world targeted at teenagers. Jointly organised by RI and Maurick College from the Netherlands, the five-day summit aimed to help youth better understand global water issues, as well as develop scientific, diplomatic and leadership skills. Topics discussed include water quality, treatment and monitoring; social responsibility, awareness and advocacy; national strategies and water conflicts; community involvement projects and integrated urban water designs.

Singapore has no natural water resources in the form of large river systems or aquifers, while the Netherlands faces challenges keeping seawater out and freshwater in. Yet, both countries have successfully tackled these problems through science and innovation. The Netherlands has become a leader in water technologies, harnessing salinity gradient (the change in salinity as fresh water meets the sea) to generate electricity. Meanwhile, land-scarce Singapore expanded its water reservoirs and uses membrane technology to purify water.

The conference opened with presentations by RI Senior Deputy Principal Mr Magendiran, Guest of Honour H.E. Tormod Endresen, Norway’s ambassador to Singapore, and Founder of the Third World Centre for Water Management Mr Asit Biswas. Mr Biswas explained that up to half of the world’s population still do not have ready access to safe drinking water, and the root of the problem is poor water management systems implemented by governments and local authorities.

Following the opening ceremony was a Dialogue Session titled ‘The Future of Water’, where leading authorities on water issues provided further insight into the global water situation. Panelists included Guest of Honour H.E. Tormod Endresen, Norway’s ambassador to Singapore, Special Guest H.E Mr. Jacques Werner, the Netherland’s ambassador to Singapore, Professor Asit Biswas (Distinguished Visiting Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Founder, Third World Center for Water Management), Mr Paul Reiter (Strategic Counsel to International Water Association), Mr Wong Lup Wai (Chief Operating Officer, Hyflux Ltd) and Professor Khoo Teng Chye (Executive Director for Centre for Liveable Cities, Ministry of National Development). Together, they brought up thought-provoking and controversial global water topics, and challenged the students to think critically about the importance of water.