The Singapore Splash Out!

With her Award experiences dear to heart and after successfully completing the Gold level, Freya Katre continues to volunteer towards its growth and development in India. This summer, Freya and Ankit Durga-Gold Holder represented India at the Asia Pacific Youth Water Forum (AYP10) in Singapore. Organised by NYAA Council Singapore, the Forum-“Clean Water for a Healthy World” coincided with the Singapore International Water Week 2010. The Forum encouraged collaboration between the youth of the region to resolve the increasing water shortages faced by their respective countries.

The Singapore experience was like biting into a chocolate chip, hidden in the cake! The Water Forum was an insight into the daily administration of and the visions of the dynamic people that make Singapore what it is today. Singaporeans are distinctive in their passion to think for the future and encourage their youth to build on what is left behind rather than re-vamp the entire setting.

The two-year mandatory service for the youth, in either the army or the police, has inculcated a bold outlook in all Singaporeans. Systems are in place where tree planting and crop cultivation are possible on rooftops. PUB-Singapore’s national water agency’s “Active, Beautiful, Clean” (ABC) water programme aims to unlock the potential of their ‘blue treasures’ and to convert the pervasive network of drains, canals and reservoirs into beautiful, clean streams, rivers and lakes. The plan is a vision outlined by Lee Hsien Loong-Prime Minister of Singapore, to integrate the rivers and lakes with parks and gardens in an effort to create new, vibrant, and active community spaces. A strict law that renders storage of fresh rain water in private overhead tanks illegal simply reflects the society’s consciousness to work together to enjoy a cleaner greener country.

The discussion session on first day, where invitees from the State for Law and Home Affairs, Water Network Chairman in Singapore, Oz Green Australia and other delegates from the Asia Pacific region shared water issues and real-life examples of how it is possible to work with
communities to bring about change through informed participation to care for our existing water resources and by the development of ecologically sustainable ways of living had immense learning outcomes.

The information sharing with visits to the Singapore Science Centre, technical tour of the Wasterwater Treatment Plant and Water Hub, study visit to the Commonwealth Secondary School’s water conservation project and the networking session with professionals from the Singapore Water Association and PUB inspired us to believe that it is indeed possible to have “Clean Water for a Healthy World”. Ideas such as inculcating a competitive spirit amongst villages in relation to cleaner surroundings, having a ‘No Water Hour’ (except of course for drinking purposes) or even having fun filled community activities are simple and practical methods that can be easily adopted and are constructive practices to conserve resources and build on ecologically sustainable systems.

Along with the diverse array of experiences we shared with one another, we thoroughly enjoyed the true Singapore experience, courtesy the team from Singapore, with visits to the Marina Barrage to witness several water-sporting events, the incredible Night Safari, a day at the Universal Studios, the breath taking Songs Of The Sea production and tasting the Durian-a fruit which is impossible to describe and is banned in all public places, holding a spot next to the ‘No Smoking’ sign across the country.

The Forum was a huge professional and cultural learning platform for all of us delegates from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia, and Singapore. We put aside political issues aside and had a fabulous time connecting with everyone. An ironic example- I shared by room with Snober, a delegate from Pakistan and we had a great time talking about our cultural similarities! It was also interesting to learn the various notions of India/Indians that people carried with them. One morning, Lee (from the Philippines) wondered aloud why I did not have a mark (Bindi) on my forehead as the group of Indian women wearing Sarees. Surprised, I explained that Bindis worn by Indian women out of personal choice.

As we returned to India, we were convinced that it is quite possible to encourage young Indians, the backbone of progress, to participate in water conservation as part of their Award journeys. We look forward to implementing partnerships between Award India and water agencies to take this ahead. Finally, I am grateful to IAYP India for giving me this fantastic opportunity and extend my appreciation to the entire Singaporean team for making it all so worthwhile.

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