A s nations around the globe become increasingly resource-hungry in order to whet the appetites of growing economies and populations, greater stress will be placed on the environment and on supplies of essential resources such as water. As a highly urbanised and industralised small nation, Singapore also faces a growing burden on her environment and water resources, and it has never been more important to invest in measures to create a sustainable future for future generations.
Enter the PUB and NEA, the two agencies responsible for ensuring that Singaporeans enjoy a sustainable water supply and livable environment, now and in the future. NEW scholars Jason Cheng and Zhang Jianwei tell us how they are securing the future of the environment and our water supply at NEA and PUB respectively.
Why did you choose to apply for the NEW Scholarship?
Jason Cheng: I have always had a keen interest in water and environmental issues. Moreover, in addition to the conventional scholarship benefits, the NEW Scholarship also supports the all-rounded development of its scholars by sponsoring us for overseas conferences and summer school. While the tangible scholarship benefits were definitely enticing, it was ultimately the prospects of working in the dynamic and challenging water and environmental sectors which made me choose the NEW Scholarship over the others.
Zhang Jianwei: I wanted to do something related to engineering and the water sector seemed like an exciting field to be in because of the amount of investment being put into it. The scholarship also allowed me to pursue an overseas education, something which I felt strongly about because of the opportunities it would give me. The NEW Scholarship also stood out from the other scholarships because of the flexibility it offered in terms of the disciplines and courses that scholars are entitled to pursue. This is also an indication of the diverse nature of the work that we are exposed to at PUB and NEA!
Tell us more about the role of NEA/ PUB in managing the future of Singapore’s environment and water resources. How do you hope to contribute?
Jason: Apart from enforcing the Environmental Public Health Act, Environmental Management and Protection Act and the Energy Conservation Act and related Regulations to ensure a clean and sustainable environment for Singapore, NEA also ensures the setting up of necessary infrastructure and programmes, encourages innovation and works closely with 3P (private, public and people) stakeholders. This includes various initiatives such as the National Recycling Programme and the more recent Singapore Sustainable Blueprint 2015.
Jason Cheng Qiao An
Designation: Engineer (3P & Licensing/ Licensing & Operation), Waste and Resource Management Department, NEA
Studied: Master of Engineering (Chemical Engineering)
Imperial College London, UK
For my part, I hope to contribute to the whole-of-government approach in executing the key initiatives laid out in the Singapore Sustainable Blueprint, and suggest further initiatives that take into account future developments for the next blueprint. As many of the initiatives require close collaboration with multiple stakeholders, I also aspire to inculcate a greater sense of environmental ownership in all Singaporeans.
Jianwei: Despite Singapore’s lack of natural water resources, PUB has developed a reliable and sustainable water supply through proper planning and investment in technology. Going forward, one of the key challenges in environmental sustainability is to reduce the energy consumed in treating and supplying water. With the water-energy nexus in mind, PUB has commissioned various demonstration projects to test-bed new technologies in search of less energy-intensive methods of water treatment and delivery. I hope to contribute to PUB’s mission by exploring innovative solutions in this area to see how they can be incorporated in our processes and operations.
Tell us more about your job. What are some of your responsibilities?
Jason: I am currently working in the Licensing and Operation section in the Waste and Resource Management Department where I manage all licensing matters, including processing applications for general waste collector licences. I am also responsible for ensuring that the licensees adhere to the licensing conditions and standards imposed, including investigating violations against the Licence conditions and associated Act and Regulations. I am also involved in the review of the waste management system where my operational experience is put into good use. In addition, I participate in various working groups including those dealing with cross-agency issues such as improving waste management and the living environment in landed residential estates and conservation areas.
Jianwei: I am part of the Planning, Development and Corporate Services (PDCS) division of the Water Reclamation Plants Department (WRPD). WRPD manages the treatment of used water and provides feedstock for NEWater production and industrial use. As an engineer at PDCS, I help plan for plant expansions and other development projects to ensure that the water treatment plants can continue to treat used water efficiently for water reclamation. As of now, I am working on the tender evaluation for an expansion project at one of our plants and am involved in the planning process for our long-term sludge disposal.
Designation: Engineer, Water Reclamation (Plants) Department, PUB,
Studied: Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering,
Stanford University, US
Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering, Imperial College London, UK
What opportunities have you enjoyed as a NEW Scholar?
Jason: As a student, I had the opportunity to intern at NEA’s Environmental Public Health Department and the Water Supply Network Department at PUB. I was exposed to operational work and the future development of both organisations, which really gave me a head start in my career in NEA. The experience helped facilitate the management of my current projects. In addition, during the year I spent abroad at Carnegie Mellon University in the US, I attended the 2013 Climate Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. with key leaders from government, non-governmental organisations, industries and academic institutions. I got to learn first-hand about the importance of greater collaboration and partnerships among the 3P sectors in devising strategies to tackle complex environmental issues from luminaries such as Bank of America Chairman Bob Perciasepe and Deputy EPA Administrator Chad Holliday!
Jianwei: I was invited to help out at the Singapore International Water Week while I was still a student in 2011. I served as a liaison officer to one of the delegates and helped to take notes at the India and Japan business forums. It was an eye-opening experience to see international leaders and water companies congregate at the event to showcase new technologies and hold discussions on policy issues in the water sector.
Furthermore, the scholarship board was very supportive of my decision to apply for graduate school. I wanted to pursue a Master’s programme in Environmental Engineering in the US as I felt that it would give me a better foundation in water management. Looking back, it was indeed a good decision as the programme equipped me with a solid knowledge of water treatment, which has allowed me to learn faster on the job. I am truly thankful for the support I received as a NEW Scholar!
What advice do you have for aspiring NEW scholars?
Jason: You should look beyond the tangible benefits of the scholarship and ask yourself if you are genuinely interested in the nature of the organisation’s work. NEA and PUB offer aspiring NEW scholars a diverse choice of dynamic and challenging careers in areas as varied as engineering, research, corporate services and policy planning. If you are passionate about contributing to the environmental and water sectors and safeguarding the high living standards of Singaporeans, then join us and make that dream a reality!
Jian Wei: While you may not have your entire career mapped out yet at the age of 18, you should at least know what is in store for you and find out as much as you can before applying for the scholarship. It will also be a great bonus to have a passion for the environment, as it will enable you to enjoy the sense of fulfilment that comes from serving your fellow Singaporeans.