Every year from all around the world, representatives of companies, organizations and government bodies come to Singapore to take part in the mega event on water. This year too the Singapore International Water Week and Expo 2012 was held from July 1 to 5, 2012 held in Expo and Convent Centre, in the foothold of the magnificent Marina Bay Sand Hotel, truly a man-made marvel in itself.

The Water Week was inaugurated by Hon’ble Mr. Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore, on the evening of July 1. The big hall was packed with about 3,000 participants from all parts of the globe. Prime Minister Lee made a grand entrance in the hall with the Chinese traditional dragon dancers escorting him up to the stage, after a brief show of their exceptional skill as the predecessors of this ancient dance form. Prime Minister Lee welcomed the delegates and observed: “There is one common theme that links these events together – how to develop liveable and sustainable cities, and to build for ourselves beautiful and endearing homes”.

The challenge, he noted, is to do so in the face of an unprecedented scale of urbanization, driven largely by emerging economies, and in Asia in particular.

“It’s a tremendous time of change, and a tremendous opportunity for development and progress, because cities can be a better habitat for the world’s population. They are economically dynamic, culturally diverse and they can be environmentally friendly,” said Mr. Lee.

Given Singapore’s small size and high population density, sustainability and liveability have always been a vital part. Harnessing the spirit of innovation, the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize 2012, along with its counterpart, the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2012, celebrates the pinnacles of excellence in fields that contribute to sustainable water and urban development.

The prizes are also in line with Singapore’s vision to promote excellence and leadership in the area of urban planning and water management. The award ceremony for both prizes was held with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean as the Guest of Honour.

Netherlands Wins Prize

This year, Professor Mark van Loosdrecht from the Netherlands was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize 2012 for his breakthrough contributions in creating sustainable solutions in the field of wastewater treatment.

The 2012 Water Prize received 61 nominations from 25 countries. The prize was awarded to Dr. Van Loosdrecht for pioneering an innovative biological process that was cost-effective of its development. It has protected nature reserves, built parks and gardens, and cleaned up rivers and waterways.

“We have managed the consumption of scarce resources,” said Mr. Lee. “Water, a strategic vulnerability, has been turned into a strength.” This has been achieved by expanding water catchments with new reservoirs, pricing water fully, and developing new water technology, to maximize the value of water through reuse.

Marina Bay is a good example of Singapore’s transformation over the past 40 years. Formerly a highly polluted river running into the sea, the area was revitalised through land reclamation, building Marina Barrage, and the creation of gardens by the bay. It has been developed into a bustling business centre and recreation hub. “It is now an icon that all Singaporeans can be proud of and identify with, and think of when we talk of home, of Singapore,” said Mr. Lee.

While Singapore offers some good examples of how cities can make themselves more sustainable and liveable, it is by no means resting on its laurels. Mr. Lee said there was much to be learned from others, citing New York City, the winner of the 2012 Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, as an example of how strong leadership and community participation can transform cities.

Mr. Lee added, “We are determined to continue improving Singapore so that our people live comfortably and pleasantly. This is how we will make Singapore the best home for all of us.”

The evening ended with the Prime Minister’s visit to the Expo and dinner. Food stalls were put all over the Expo halls.

Day two started early at the Expo, with the participants at their stalls setting up and making last-minute adjustments to their displays. There were two massive halls one on the first floor and the other in the basement. Amazingly a day earlier during the ongoing construction in the halls it seemed this will take till the judgment day to finish, but thanks to the efficiency of the official contractors of the Expo, the end result was awesome, beautiful and by all means creative, and all the stalls were ready for display.

Every exhibit stall hosted its own personality which defined the company and the work it did. However, the only thing common in them was water.

Most of the stalls had big water purifying machines displayed, and they were very particular in emphasizing on the method and materials each one used in purifying or desalinating of water, with different technology for different purposes. Every technology stressed on its feasibility and affordability. In one of the stalls, they were large cylindrical pipes with parallel running holes, which were seemingly made of lime stone. A representative at the stall explained how they used these pipes to clean/filter water. The pipe-shaped materials were said to be made of natural materials, but whether they are locally available all over was not certain.

Everywhere in the stalls membrane cartridges of different size, shape and materials were displayed. Even the big companies like Mitsubishi, Veolio, SIEMENS, Huflux, Chzmhill, Asahi Kasei, Black & Veatch, Boustead Salcon Water Solutions, who had the biggest stalls, vied with one another in displaying their supremacy in the sector. However, in all of this show of strength, the one significant thing which was missing was the social aspect and implications, even though people from different parts of the world did discuss their success stories and how they are dealing with providing safe drinking water in their part of the world which was shared or discussed in the conference halls.

Water being one of the prime factors for human survival on earth faces the problems of contamination, wastage and finally, extinction and all these, not in a far-off future, either. The International Water Week Conference has been an occasion to discuss the problems along with their solution both at the governmental and corporate sector levels. Leveraging private sector participation was rightly emphasized along with show-casing the initiatives taken achievements accomplished in the sector. The example of Singapore in the field of sustainable water management and urban development was remarkable for all the participants in the conference. Equally important were the technological marvels showcased by the internationally renowned companies in the field of water purification and de-contamination.