The YWLS provided me an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded individuals who are involved in ensuring sustainable development through proper management of water resources in the face of increasing pressures of population growth, rapid economic developments and climate change. In particular, meeting with public and private water professionals was an especially enriching experience in opening my horizon to see how businesses are able and willing to incorporate sustainable approaches into business decisions while maintaining profits.
The founder of IndoChine, Mr Michael Ma, was a particularly interesting entrepreneur that came to speak to us. He demonstrated that as long as there is proper planning from the outset of the business model with a sustained commitment from the top management, it is still possible for profit-seeking businesses to operate without adversely affecting the environment and natural resources. In the discussing the coexistence of human and nature, Mr Ma introduced an insightful concept of the 2 man-made things that does not exist in nature; the first is boundaries and borders, and the second is rubbish. He believed that resources like water that flows in the environment knows no boundaries, and the environment was one continuous entity. Therefore, once businesses understand that, not only is incorporating sustainability into business operations the socially responsible thing to do, it also might be an approach to reduce costs and increase profits by using sustainable and durable furniture, for example, thereby reducing expenditure in replacing older dysfunctional furniture.
In the same panel was Mr Chew Men Leong, the Chief Executive (CE) of the Public Utilities Board (PUB), the national water agency of Singapore, who gave an instant unambiguous response when asked for the top priority for investment to solve water scarcity and management related problems; investment in people. He highlighted the importance of human or people as an agent of change, without which nothing can happen at all. This remark prompted me to relate to the situation in Singapore, where the government has been consistently investing in its people since a long time ago to develop a base of appropriate expertise by giving out scholarships to retain talents to contribute to the holistic sustainable development of Singapore for economic prosperity. Also, the Hydro-Pitch Day was also another eye-opening event as many teams with innovative ideas related to water strived to win funding from venture capitalists in order to further develop their product. This triggered a stark realization that in the business of water, regardless of public or private, the financing aspect is all-important.
Not forgetting, this event brought together water professionals from all walks of the industry, including researchers, policy makers, authors, NGOs and private businesses. Through the event, I was very fortunate to have interacted with Dr Cecilia Tortajada and Dr Asit Biswas, who are authors of the book “The Singapore Water Story” published recently in 2013, and discussed their thoughts on the future of Singapore.
All in all, YWLS exposed me to many different aspects of water, from private businesses problems to public governance issues and sanitation concerns. It further reinforces my belief that the water sector has immeasurable potential for growth and maturity.
By Lin Cheng Xian Sam