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Singapore Sustainability Scholarship recipients are helping to solve our future environmental, food and water issues

Caption: The challenges brought on by the pandemic have made Mr Chow Tak Wei (above left), Mr Lau Kai Kiat (centre) and Mr Tin Jing Jie even more committed to being a part of the sustainability journey. PHOTOS: MAX CHAN

Singapore Sustainability Scholarship recipients focus on environmental, food and water issues

By Rachael Boon

“With the future of our food security placed in a more precarious position amid the crisis, I am even more motivated to bring back what I have learnt in food technology.” 

Mr Lau Kai Kiat, Singapore Sustainability Scholarship recipient

Today’s uncertain environment, coupled with the challenges brought about by the ongoing pandemic, has turned the spotlight on sustainability, along with challenges in environment resilience as well as food and water security.

The Covid-19 outbreak disrupted food supply chains globally, raising concerns about a lack of access to supplies.

Singapore Sustainability Scholarship holder Lau Kai Kiat, 21, who is pursuing a bachelor of science in food technology at the Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands, explains: “A crisis that causes border closures can indirectly curtail food supply, and this is even more so for countries like Singapore, which imports 90 per cent of our food.”

Scholarship recipients will tackle such issues, among others, under the scholarship programme, which nurtures young talent wanting to develop solutions in areas such as food security and climate change. 

The Singapore Sustainability Scholarship – formerly known as the National Environment & Water (NEW) Scholarship – was renamed in August last year in tandem with the newly-named Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment.

It is an open public undergraduate and postgraduate scholarship jointly offered by the National Environment Agency (NEA); PUB, Singapore’s national water agency; and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA). 

Candidates can pursue scholarships, including mid-term or master’s scholarships, in fields related to the environment, food and water sectors.

Mr Lau, who will join SFA after graduation, says: “With the future of our food security placed in a more precarious position amid the crisis, I am even more motivated to bring back what I have learnt in food technology.” 

He notes food technology has the potential to spark business partnerships with other countries, and “with partnerships come business propositions, knowledge sharing, job creation and, of course, exciting food products on supermarket shelves”.

An essential role

The pandemic has also deepened scholarship recipient Chow Tak Wei’s appreciation for his role at NEA. He is an assistant manager with the Policy, Programmes and Engagement Division of the Hawker Centres Group.

He says: “The pandemic has underscored the importance of NEA’s mission to ensure a clean and sustainable environment for Singapore. NEA’s work is complex, inter-disciplinary and has high touchpoints not only with the public, but also with other businesses and government agencies.”

During the pandemic, the 27-year-old and fellow colleagues “took on additional frontline duties, such as playing the role of safe distancing enforcement officers at hawker centres and markets”. 

“I realised our presence helped to keep essential services running smoothly, and gave assurance to stallholders that they were not alone in facing this crisis. 

“While handling ground operations may not seem glamorous to some, it is actually an important part of NEA’s work to ensure that the residents of Singapore have a safe and liveable home,” he adds.

Making a splash 

Similar sentiments are made by fellow scholar Tin Jing Jie, 27, an engineer with the water reclamation (plants) department at national water agency PUB. 

He says PUB ensures that everyone has clean water at the turn of their taps, and has continued to do so “in spite of the significant constraints imposed by the pandemic”. 

“This has reaffirmed my decision to continue working in PUB to meet water needs on schedule by contributing towards the timely delivery of large water infrastructure projects,” he says.

He further notes the pandemic has exacerbated supply chain and manpower vulnerabilities, which could impact the timely delivery of these projects in the foreseeable future. He hopes to help tackle any potential challenges.

He adds: “I believe 3D-printing projects will help to increase the availability of locally produced spare parts for testing and commissioning activities. I would like to be a part of such projects, as well as embark on robotics and automation projects to reduce labour requirements for various projects.”

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