Environmental programme for Singapore and international students kicks off

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the environment and water resources, at the opening ceremony of the second STEP-NUS Sunburst Environment Programme. About 150 students from nine countries, including Singapore, India and Brunei, took part in the f
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the environment and water resources, at the opening ceremony of the second STEP-NUS Sunburst Environment Programme. About 150 students from nine countries, including Singapore, India and Brunei, took part in the five-day camp. -- ST PHOTO: AUDREY TAN

SINGAPORE - More than 150 teenagers will spend the next five days learning about biodiversity conservation through a series of workshops and field trips.

Paricipants from Singapore and a number of Asean countries will go on study visits and get their hands dirty at St John's Island and Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve.

They will also attend lectures delivered by leading scientists like Dr Dennis Gordon, marine biology and group manager from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand. Dr Gordon delivered the opening day's keynote lecture on taxonomy, the science of classification.

The camp, which now in its second year, is organised by the Singapore Technologies Endowment Programme (Step), a charity under Temasek Holdings which sponsors youth from Singapore and Asia for all its programmes, and the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Step chairman Leo Tan pointed to rapid urbanisation, population growth and economic progress as challenges to the conservation of the natural environment.

Said Prof Tan, who is also director of special projects at the NUS Faculty of Science: "Through this programme, I hope that the students can develop a thorough understanding of the issues affecting the future of our planet. In time to come, I hope that they can... play a role in improving the environment of their own school, community and society."

During the opening ceremony, guest-of-honour Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources spoke on the trend of urbanisation, and how this may not always be a bad thing for the environment as less resources are used to provide education opportunities, water and electricity to a dense city rather than the scatter of a countryside.

He said: "The point of this week is to discover how intelligent urbanisation (can be) a plus for biodiversity."