Till now I had not stepped outside India. I am in Singapore on an invitation to participate in the Water Leaders Summit at the Singapore International Water Week. The theme of the Summit is ‘Sustainable Water Solutions for a Changing Urban Environment'. The summit began the day before, on 4th July with an inaugural address by the Deputy PM and the Finance Minister Mr Tharman Shanmugarathnam. It was one of the simplest and briefest inaugural functions that I have ever seen. Unlike our programs, inauguration itself was not made into an event.
After a brief introduction, the Dy PM was asked to deliver his inaugural words. Yesterday, the PM of Singapore Mr Lee Hsien Loong (yes, he is the son of that legendary builder of modern Singapore Mr Lee Kuan Yew) participated. The important thing is he did not give any speech. But it was an intense interactive dialogue with the audience. The Chairperson of the Water Leaders Summit Prof Tommy Koh asked the first question about the need that made Singapore to take difficult decisions towards becoming self sufficient for water needs. Till now Singapore depended upon Malaysia for its water. Then about 12 delegates asked various questions, all pertaining to water needs. AND the well-versed PM answered all the questions excellently.
The felicity with which he handled the questions was something wonderful. Without making any note of the questions (some of which were very long and some very complex containing two or more issues) and without seeking any assistance from any aide, Mr Lee gave his insight about how the challenge was converted into an opportunity.
He said that the key to water success is to set the priority right. Mr Lee advocated that there are no magic solutions to overcome urban water problems and achieving water self sufficiency is a slow, painstaking process. He gave this assessment when he was tapped for advice he could give to any other Country. Saying he was apprehensive to give any advice because every city’s problems are different, he told “I think the most important thing may not be water itself, but it is the ability of the city to administer effective water management.”
Singapore today is focusing on 3 ways for tacking Water needs. a) Conserving Rain water b) Recycling c) Desalination. The PM was sipping the 'recycled' water throughout that interaction. The recycled water is labeled as NEW WATER. And in the convention the delegates drank the same water without any reluctance or hesitation. The PM spoke on the importance of Governance, Public Education & Proper Technology to make Water Management more effective. It was a real, real Demonstration of leading the country by example. Thank you Lee, for showing the insight, vision and determination,
And as the Indian Water Resources Minister Mr Salmon Khurshid said, the 3 priorities for our country are Water, Water and Water. We should focus on clean water, More Water and Affordable Water.
There is lot more to take back to my state from here. I am preparing for my tomorrow’s address at the South Asian Ministers conference. More of my enriching experiences later.
- S.SURESH KUMAR