Tough questions flow at first international water conference for high school students

Singapore - Could a global water bank help manage the world's water fairly? Why should water-rich nations save water? Is regulation the only way to stop factories from polluting rivers?

Questions such as these flew thick and fast to an expert panel at an international water summit on Monday. The panel included the Norwegian and Dutch ambassadors to Singapore, business and government body heads, and even a former senior scientific advisor to the United nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

And the ones lobbing the tough queries at the distinguished panellists were teenagers aged just 14 to 18 years old.

More than 130 students from 15 nations including Singapore, Australia, Japan, China, Germany, the Netherlands, Thailand and Colombia were attending the inaugural 'Water is Life' RI-Maurick International Water Conference, held at Raffles Institution (RI).

Organised by RI and Maurick College in the Netherlands, the week-long summit from Jun 9 to 13 aims to help the youths better understand global water issues and how to solve them.

It is believed to be the first water summit in the world targeted at such a young audience.

RI's senior deputy principal S. Magendiran told the students: "How do we grow in wisdom as a world on this issue of water? As young people, you will hopefully come to this question with fresher eyes and more idealism than adults like us."

Up to half of the world's seven billion people still do not have ready access to clean water. The problem, stressed Professor Asit Biswas, founder of the Third World Centre for Water Management, is not a lack of water or funding but poor management by governments and local authorities.

During the five-day conference, students will hear from invited scientists, give presentations, and learn how Newater is made.

"I hope to bring a big change back to Japan by bringing ideas back home," said 16-year-old Hiro Kawakatsu from Shibuya Senior High School in Tokyo, Japan.

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