Raffles Institution hosts First Youths’ Symposium on Sustainable Water Future

Hosted by Raffles Institution (RI) and supported by PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, the Singapore Youth Water Conference (SYWC) is the first student-oriented symposium focused on the topic of water.

The conference aimed to create a deeper awareness and knowledge of water security and sustainability issues in youth aged 15 to 18 years old, and was attended by over 200 students from 11 schools.

With a theme of “The Future of Water”, the SYWC was also organised as a follow-up to this year’s Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) Spotlight 2019 event that was organised in partnership with Ecosperity Week, to encourage youths to continue the dialogue from SIWW and share their thoughts on the pressing challenges faced by the water industry today and in the future.

In addition to the conference, students from various schools including Hwa Chong Institution and Nanyang Polytechnic had the chance to exhibit their solutions to water challenges and sharing of water conservation messages, such as the use of environmentally-friendly hydrogels for stormwater management, synthesising biochar from plants to remove common pollutants in wastewater, and educating their peers on the water treatment process through a fun card game.

Highlights of the students’ solution exhibit included a study conducted by RI students Liu Kaizhong, Melvin Loh, Bek Ming Huan, Justyn Lae and Yeo Eng Xuan, on the effects that laccase enzymes produced by the tree oyster mushroom (Pleurotus Ostreatus) could have on the degradation of textile dyes, and further effects on chemical oxygen demand levels. The study found that laccase enzymes were a more viable, cost-effective method that could be deployed by less developed countries.

The students explained: “We wanted to focus on this because we wanted to target LDCs – less developed countries. Many people focus on using more expensive technologies and we’re trying to find a cheaper method for this.”

Another study that attracted a high level of interest was conducted by RI students Choy Xin Yun, Liao Xinglin and Vaishaanth Nagaraj. The group explored the efficiency of different types of biochar produced from spent mushroom compost (SMC) in removing heavy metal ions such as lead and copper from water. The group found that all SMC biochar had higher pore density and surface area, and was more effective in removing heavy metal ions from water as compared to raw SMC, which highlighted strong potential for commercial use.

Students Choy Xin Yun, Vaishaanth Nagaraj and Liao Xinglin at the Singapore Science & Engineering Fair (SSEF)

His groupmate Liao added: “In the end, this is not just an academic project, it’s something we want to commercialise. Our scope is not just in Singapore, it can go overseas – in other countries, this will see s of interest.”Explained Nagaraj: “Heavy metal ions have a harmful effect on the human body. What we’re trying to do in our project is discover and synthesise a material that is effective in removing these heavy metal ions from water, so this water is now safe for human consumption.”