The ASEAN + 3 Youth Festival (AYF) started off with a high (both literally and figuratively). The opening ceremony was held at the Jewel Box, at Mount Faber and in style, we took a cable car ride up there.
The delegates and staff were put up at Novotel Clarke Quay, which is the perfect place to accommodate youths. What’s more hip and happening than the revitalised Clarke Quay, with bars, pubs, restaurants, a shopping mall and even a reverse bungee amusement ride? Our rooms weren’t half bad either and for the event, I bunked in with the rest of the facilitators.
The view from the room is fantastic.
The next day we got down to business, starting with an introductory lecture to get the juices flowing on the topic for the Forum part of the AYF, which focuses on sustainable development. The theme was Growing ASEAN: At What Expense?
As I had just returned from the Korea IYF as a delegate, I borrowed a few elements and incorporated it into our breakout sessions when we led the discussions for the delegates. I was a facilitator for the “Environment” group along with Sha, Zheng Rong and Ling. These delegates were really an enthusiastic bunch! Here they are doing the ice-breakers sharing their thoughts on their dream city of the future.
Groups were tasked to come up with ideas for a green leaf (factors that facilitates sustainable development) and a brown leaf (factors that hinders sustainable development). Here they are sharing their thoughts on the issue in their sub-groups before presenting it to the rest of the delegates.
After the sharing, we had the exciting forum theatre performance and debrief before heading to The Arena, touted to be Singapore's largest international live music venue, for dinner.
After The Arena, some of the facilitators and I headed to Cineleisure to catch the Dark Knight. Those involved in the AYF had the privilege of free entrance to Butter Factory, but ol’ fuddy duddy me passed it over. All I wanted to do, and did so at 2am, was have a good uninterrupted soak in the tub and wake up to this.
The next day, the Environmental group headed to the NEWater plant, Singapore WaterWatch Society and the Marina Barrage to learn more about what has been done to promote sustainable development.
Err...no. The delegates were not at another night club – they were toasting with bottles of NEWater at the NEWater plant, where the guide brought us through the process of reverse osmosis (RO). As Singapore is a water-scarce country, NEWater was touted as one of our National Taps for our water needs. The quality of NEWater consistently exceeds the requirements set by USEPA and WHO guidelines and is, in fact, cleaner than the other sources of Singapore's water. While I have no doubts about PUB’s integrity, it would be great as well if the public is educated about the debate surrounding RO water. Though I can’t verify this, it was brought up during the Korea IYF discussions that RO is acidic, which is a problem since there has been supporting evidence that people who live the longest and have the least diseases live in areas where the water has more of an alkaline pH, in other words, a higher mineral content.
We then headed to the Singapore WaterWatch Society, a non-governmental organisation which conducts the patrolling rivers and their catchments, and reports to the relevant authorities if any kind of pollution is found in those areas. Singapore has always prided itself on its cleanliness, and it is such societies which exposes the underbelly of such myths and aims to raise awareness to prevent complacency from setting in. Its office was located below the bridge, which is rather apt when you think about it, because like a support structure for the bridge which is a connection for roads, the society similarly acts as a support system for the health of the connecting rivers.
Here’s what you see outside the office.
We are lucky to be able to take the Duck Tours bridge to get to the Marina Barrage. On the way to the Marina Barrage, we saw a lot of construction, all part of a grand masterplan. Here we pass by the construction area for Gardens by the Bay.
Upon completion, this is what Gardens by the Bay is slated to look like.
We also passed by the site for the Formula One race track which is furiously being constructed.
We had a good view of the Singapore Flyer.
And soon arrived at the Marina Barrage. We are lucky – it has not even officially opened yet!
Here’s the danger area to warn boats away in case the pressure sweeps them in when the gates open.
Shots of the interior of the barrage.
On the rooftop where the solar panels are.
The point of the barrage was to function as flood control (no more high and low tides), a reservoir (water is expected to be freshwater due to continual dilution) and for recreational activities (water is calmer with the barrage so water sports activities can be held). Again, I wish the authorities would give a more balanced perspective of the barrage (then again, of course it’s not their job to do so). What he did not say was that the barrage will lead to massive die-offs of the biodiversity of marine life as the salinity of the water changes.
In fact after the news of the Marina barrage broke, some citizens wrote in suggesting the construction of a Ubin-Tekong reservoir. Here’s Ivan’s reply in the Straits Times citing unjustified costs, cross country boundaries, possible contamination and of course its effect on marine life.
The next day came time to wrap up the Forum, and the delegates did up the green and brown leaves and well as the fruits. The end product was the ASEAN + 3 Tree, which the facilitators are posing with.
Hopefully the seeds are sown, and one day, the fruits from the practice of a greater emphasis on sustainable development will be seen.