While the relationship between man and environment is something that we do not often take notice of, it is also an inextricable part of our lives. From the water that we drink to the air we breathe, we all interact with the environment on a daily basis without paying any mind to it.
And yet, we cannot afford to ignore it. Any threat to the environment will inevitably come to harm us. Imagine a world where you have to trudge through squalid water every day, while the air is so polluted that you are unable to see past arm’s reach.
With the National Environment Agency (NEA) and PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency working behind the scenes, we are able to go about our daily lives without even having to consider such a scenario happening. Managing the sewage systems and pollution levels in our environment, these two organisations work tirelessly to ensure that our country is kept clean and green. National Environment & Water (NEW) Scholars Low Guan Jie and Fabia Lim, tell us about how they work to protect our environment at NEA and PUB respectively.
What drew you to the NEW Scholarship?
Low Guan Jie: The NEW scholarship was a natural choice for me as I was interested in working for Singapore’s environmental sector. Through the various rounds of interviews, I had the opportunity to interact with many NEA staff who further convinced me that NEA was a place that I would like to work in and contribute to.
Fabia Lim: I had a first-hand experience of PUB as an organisation during an internship I did with PUB. I was simply fascinated by the efforts put in to provide Singapore with a 24/7 continuous supply of clean water from our taps - something I had always taken for granted. From then, I developed deep respect for the engineers and staff in PUB. It inspired me to be an engineer who can make a difference to the lives of millions of people.
Low Guan Jie
Bachelor of Science in Biology, Imperial College London, UK
Masters of Science in Environment Technology, Imperial College London, UK
Tell us about your role and the responsibilities at work.
Guan Jie: Currently, I am with the Pollution Control Department which is part of the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Unit (EMAU). We monitor the ambient air and water quality in Singapore. One of the key areas of service to the public is through the reporting of the PSI and other air quality parameters on the NEA website, Twitter, and MyENV App. As a Scientific Officer in EMAU, I support the operations of the monitoring network and manage projects to improve our monitoring capabilities.
Fabia: As an engineer in the PUB Water Reclamation Network Department, I am responsible for the planning and designing of sewers in Singapore. Our division plays a key role in supporting developments all over Singapore, in ensuring a healthy sewer network that will not clog up and overflow into the streets.
My role involves liaising with other agencies to better understand their developments and sewerage needs, to ensure smooth delivery of our sewerage projects, while streamlining our sewer works with other services. We also run simulations on our sewerage networks regularly – to identify any potential inadequacies early and look for possible network expansions.
Lim Yan Ying Fabia
National Environment and Water Scholar
Masters of Engineering in Civil Engineering, University of Bath, UK
Share with us about some of the more memorable episodes you have had at work.
Guan Jie: In June 2016, I was nominated to be the Haze Task Force (HTF) secretariat. This was the first time that I took on a secretariat role for a multi-agency taskforce. As many agencies were involved, I initially faced challenges in understanding and managing the different requirements and perspectives. To add on, I had to be responsible to ensure that the logical aspects of each meeting were organised in a timely manner. It was hard work, but I learnt a lot from interacting with my peers from other agencies and the experience left a lasting impression on me.
Fabia: I recently received a query from a developer, asking why there were sewers at the boundary of the land which they had purchased. It is a lateral setback zone for sewers where no permanent structures are allowed to be constructed. This made the usable land area smaller for the developer, as the setback zone encroached slightly into their lot. We had to explain to them that the sewers were there to serve the different developments in the area - including their lot. Additionally, that the setback zone was to facilitate maintenance work and protect the sewers.
What advice would you have for those exploring their scholarship options?
Guan Jie: Choose your scholarship after careful consideration. Have a plan of what you hope to achieve or gain from the scholarship, as it is a long-term commitment which could potentially become a life-long career.
Fabia: Firstly, know where your passion lies. Only then can you truly enjoy your job and have the motivation to get to work every day. Next, I strongly urge you to take up an internship with the organisation offering the scholarship that you are interested in applying for. Not only will the organisation have a holistic assessment of you through the internship, but you will also have a better understanding of what you are signing up for. Last but not least, dare to be different and do not be afraid to go off the beaten track!