Eugene Heng’s Why

“Unfortunately for us, it may be an epidemic to Wake Us Up.”

Water is the most common substance on Earth (Crystal, 1990). Yet, many countries worldwide are faced with water shortage (Godrej, 2003; Vidal, 2002) and water pollution (Barnes-Svarney, 1996). Back in Singapore, water security is also of serious concern (Lin, 2018). In fact, water was a particularly hot topic of discussion months ago when Mahathir had intentions to increase water price of raw water sold to Singapore (Straits Times, 2018).

According to Singapore’s National Water Agency, the Four National Taps of Singapore are:

  1. Local Catchment
  2. Imported Water
  3. NEWater
  4. Desalinated Water

With the opening of the new Tuas Desalination Plant in June this year, 30% of Singapore’s local water supply has been met via desalination (Hong, 2018). According to Lee (2018), the republic’s Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has also highlighted that: “Singaporeans will never be short of water..”

But with all the affirmations, I think it’s still important for us to ask ourselves if our waterways are truly clean?

Litters found in our waterways. SOURCE: INTERVIEWEE

When I interviewed Mr Eugene Heng, founder of Waterways Watch Society (WWS), he asserted: “Our reservoirs appear to be clean because we have cleaners and efficient systems in place to remove litters and waste.”

Mr Eugene Heng picking up litters found on Singapore’s waterways. SOURCE: INTERVIEWEE

WWS was founded in 1998, with the goal of rallying the public to do their part in keeping Singapore’s waterways clean and safe. To make learning enjoyable, WWS organises a myriad of values-in-action activities which are tailored to the participants’ age group. Some of the activities organised include kayaking and the River Monster Junior Programme which is catered for kindergarten children.

As a Singaporean, I must say I do pride myself on the cleanliness of our country. However, reality seems to reflect a different condition of our waterways. When I asked Mr Heng for some statistics, he mentioned that since May 2017, WWS has collected over 6000kg of trash at the reservoir as well as other cleanup sites. Comparing this number to the 1.4 billion pounds of trash that end up in our oceans (4Ocean, 2017), what’s the big deal?

Survey responses. SOURCE: AUTHOR

I did a survey with 35 respondents between age 16 to 35 and unsurprisingly, more than half of the respondents perceive the water we retrieve from our reservoirs as clean, even before treatment.

The reality of our reservoirs. SOURCE: INTERVIEWEE

In all honesty, I used to believe our reservoirs were really clean until I took went around our waterways on a boat with Mr Heng in March this year. I was taken aback by the huge amount of litters in the water. And among the trash that were disposed of by irresponsible humans, there were bodies of dead animals like fishes and turtles too. I wonder if parts of the reservoirs are way too polluted for animals to live in them anymore.

Despite how our reservoirs may not be as clean as I would have perceived, I am still confident that our water treatment technologies will continue to provide us with clean and drinkable tap water. However, I think it is crucial that all of us should stop taking the very convenient tap water for granted, and start playing a part by disposing of our trash responsibly.

P.S. For the full interview of Eugene Heng’s Why, click here!

References

4Ocean. (2017, January 20). How Much Trash Is In Our Ocean? Retrieved from 4Ocean: https://4ocean.com/blogs/blog/how-much-trash-is-in-our-ocean

Barnes-Svarney, P. (1996). The New York Public Library Science Desk Reference. New York: Macmillan.

Crystal, D. (1990). The Cambridge Encyclopaedia.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Godrej, D. (2003, March 5). Precious Fluid. New Internationalist. Retrieved from https://newint.org/features/2003/03/05/keynote

Hong, J. (2018, June 29). High-water mark for new Tuas plant. The Straits Times. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/high-water-mark-for-new-tuas-plant

Lee, J. (2018, June 15). Singapore’s water supply will ‘never be threatened’: DPM Teo. The Straits Times. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singapores-water-supply-will-never-be-threatened-dpm-teo

Lin, Y. (2017, February 9). Challenging times ahead for Singapore’s water security. The Straits Times. Retrieved from The Straits Times: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/challenging-times-ahead-for-spores-water-security

Malaysia PM Mahathir Mohamad wants to raise price of raw water sold to Singapore by more than 10 times. (2018, August 14). The Straits Times. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysia-pm-mahathir-mohamad-wants-to-raise-price-of-raw-water-sold-to-singapore-by

Vidal, J. (2002, August 22). Blue gold: Earth’s liquid asset. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2002/aug/22/worldsummit2002.earth2

2 thoughts on “Eugene Heng’s Why

  1. Hi Wei Qian!

    Just like what your survey results reflects, I always thought that water in our resevoirs are quite clean even before water treatment. Personally, I have only seen clean waterbodies in Singapore. When I go to places like MacRitchie Reservoir or Singapore river, not once have I seen litters floating around. I believe that may be the reason why most of us thought that our water bodies are always clean. With this general perception in Singapore, what do you think can be done to educate the public about trash entering our resevoir?

    Thanks!
    Jun Rong

    1. Hello Jun Rong! Thank you for reading my blog!

      In my opinion, education on environmental issues should start in schools. In Singapore, some schools like Woodgrove Secondary School exercise water rationing in the month-long Singapore World Water Day. During the exercise, most taps in the school are shut off for 4 hours and students are required to collect water using a pail. This exercise is meant to raise awareness of the importance of water conservation. More schools should participate in meaningful exercises like this.

      If schools have yet to do so, I would also recommend schools to show students pictures of the dirty parts of our reservoirs to inform them that our reservoirs aren’t as clean as we perceive. We need to highlight to students that reservoirs are meant for recreation and to be used as drinking water after treatment. We want to instill in them the awareness that it’s utterly worrying to see litters floating around in our reservoirs. Ideally, students should at the end of the day, understand the importance of throwing their trash responsibly into designated rubbish bins.

      I’m targeting students because I believe good habits should start as young as possible. Additionally, students can also influence their parents to do the same. Children might be easily influenced by others, but they are highly influential too.

      Of course, there are many aspects to consider when tackling environmental issues and it isn’t as simple as educating children. For individuals like us who are exposed to the various environmental issues locally and globally, we can start sharing them with the people around us, to children especially!

      I hope my response answers your question. Enjoy the rest of the recess week!

      Cheers
      Wei Qian

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