Not since Augustine Tan, the former PAP member of parliament (MP) of Whampoa touched on the need for Singapore to embark on desalination in parliament in the 1980s, has the focus on water resources resumed with an urgency befitting what could be called a national calling of epic proportions.
Singapore’s fourth desalination plant will be built by 2020 by Keppel Infrastructure Holdings. And, if nothing is exacted it will be Singapore’s first-ever plant of not just being able to treat sea and fresh water but, hasten the steps to move our country to a step closer to full-fledged dependency. It is a goal worthy of extrapolation and a move worthy of emulation. A greater accolade is perhaps of being able to call our soul after the decades of taunts dependency created.
Mercifully, all that is now behind us. Providently, it is the far-sightedness of the national water agency, the Public Utilities Board (PUB)’s vaunted aim of wanting to dissolve desalination energy that is deserving of the greatest tribute.
Like fracking that was pioneered to produce shale gas that came coupled with all its environmental hazards; desalination and the processes to produce the water we seek comes with trade-offs. Like all other major industrial processes, it leaves its footprint behind.
Reverse-osmosis plants, according to a report from the US-based Pacific Institute takes in large amounts of seawater to have it filtered through fine-pored membranes to separate freshwater from salt. The highly concentrated brine (salt solution) is the rushed back into the ocean thus raising water salinity and threatening marine life.
It has also been argued that the energy used in desalination contributes to climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions. That Singapore is taking such concerns seriously is but an ode to its credentials of being a a responsible member of the global stakeholder community, for often than not as we have seen in other parts of the world, nations have even gone to war over water!
Yet there is nothing to nay say that severing that dependency and striking out on our own may just be a blessing in guise.
In attempting to make water plentiful for all of us until our agreement with Malaysia runs out in 2061, a definitive ‘call to arms’ is in the making between what we as a peoples’ want and desire, to what we as a peoples’ can do without.
By choosing the former we just need to ditch the latter to the ash-heap of history. What is certainly not needed is a Come the Old Soldier kind of lecture over a resource so vital, so precious and as how the Japanese invaders proved in the run-up to the invasion of February 1942 – so very strategic not just to us but, to all of mankind.