AS EARTH Day passed without much fanfare, the more important victory I feel we should celebrate are the current cleanup activities being done in many of our rivers and coastal areas, which inspire us to work as a community in a manner that we never did before.
Cleaning a river or beach requires a communal effort that goes beyond politics or religion. After all, water knows no ideology or religion. Yet the long-term effect of these cleanup activities, and the continuing challenge it poses for us go far beyond the politics of the day.
We remember the strong effort of former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s program to clean the Singapore river. Looking back it was a means to protect Singapore’s future, and allowed Singapore to rally behind a national objective that knew no ideological boundaries. Water after all is a basic need whether you were Chinese, Indian or Malay.
We all know that Singapore gets its water from the Johor river in Malaysia.
Current discussions show Malaysia seeking to renegotiate its water deal with Singapore, which was engaged in the 1960s.
But getting your water from another county or territory is never a long term ideal. You will need to make sure that no conflicts between you and the neighboring territory exist. Otherwise, your water supply may be affected.
Take the case of Metro Manila, that gets its water from Angat Dam in Bulacan, despite having an abundance of water in its rivers and on the shores of Laguna de Bay. New sources being negotiated are met with opposition from tribal communities who claim to be affected by proposed dams meant to secure Metro Manila’s water supply.
This has been the case for the last 30 years since the idea of the Kaliwa dam was first proposed. it is only now that the will to develop this source was mustered.
But moving forward, we all must take stock of our water sources and keep them healthy. We will never know when we will need to tap them for our use. We must protect them from the harm we do.
Thus, the policy to develop new sources, including desalination and recycling, was a step forward for planning the future of Singapore’s water. It all began with the drive to clean rivers and water catchment areas.
We all ought to do the same. Water for all means affordable and safe water for our use. Our businesses depend on this water.
If El Niño droughts are a concern, the simple things we can do now are build more reservoirs and storage areas to gather more than enough before dry months come.
We have to encourage our water districts to build these facilities to tide us over when wells run dry. We can no longer depend on frequent rains.
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