26 Jun 2010
During his address, the Water Network Chairman spoke of his love for water and shared with forum participants, his personal relationship with water. He spoke wistfully of his kampung days spent fishing by the river and of lazy afternoons spent watching sea eagles hunt for fish. He shared anecdotes of hawkers dumping their leftovers into drains and of a Singapore river completely chock-a-block full or rubbish. Before finally stating that it was only through, “a concerted effort that Singapore’s water supply is what it is today.”
There I was sitting in the Courtyard Room at the Marina Barrage, with one brow raised. As I looked through my notebook after listening to Mr Liak Teng Lit’s key note address at the Asia Pacific Youth Water Forum, I found myself wondering how the CEO of Alexandra Hospital and Chairman of Water Network, managed to drop quotes that would seem, totally out of place at a forum held to discuss the topic of “Clean Water For a Healthy World, and yet, having them make complete sense at the same time.
The CEO, added, “I worry for you (youths), because I feel the world is at a tipping point”. Why? Well because of reasons such as a diminishing supply of cheap fuels, and an increasing lack of available clean water to meet growing demand. And of course litter.
Litter you ask? Well yes even litter is a problem “Two thirds of Singapore serves as a water catchment area, throw whatever you want, wherever you want and BOOM! It will be in your water supply”, said Mr Liak.
Just as I was thinking that a simple act such as chucking a plastic bag into a drain couldn’t possibly be such a big deal, Mr Liak was already well on his way to making me deathly afraid of introducing cheap plastic to a water body.
Plastic bags, it seems, deteriorate into microscopic particles as they are churned up by crashing waves. And these particles can possibly be ingested or simply breathed in by humans. Plastic coated lungs do not seem like a sound body modification to me.
While his many anecdotes and quirky quotes entertained participants and proved to be very informative, he really did drive his point home by issuing a call to youths to act.
“Evil triumphs when you are silent. So I argue that if you are worried about the world then walk the talk and talk the walk.”
And judging from the question and answer session, this could be a call to action that these forum participants take very seriously. Mr Liak was bombarded with questions running the gamut from his views on urbanisation leading to world destruction; to more personal questions such as if he would have done anything differently during the last 20 years of his life.
As the question and answer section drew to an end, forum participants could be found huddled together discussing some of the finer points of the address.
Lionel Lim, a 14-year-old student from Pei Hwa Secondary found the speech absolutely riveting, “The talk was really interesting and the photos and stories Mr Liak shared with us made the session all the more engaging.”
“I’m even more fired up about the discussions on water issues that will be held later and so are my school mates”, he added.
Perhaps, with fiery young environmentalists abound, the issue of water conservation will not be one to be neglected in the years to come.
By Naveen K