The Water Issue

Magazine / Sep - Oct 2017

The Water Issue

Water, as a pre-condition for living systems, is the theme of this issue. The cover, in case you wondered, shows the blue between Singapore and Malaysia. It was inspired by Sylvia Earle, an American marine biologist, who famously said “no water, no life… no blue, no green”.

The projects ahead speak of the restoration of hydrological landscapes, the remediation of water quality, the creation of new waterfront places for recreation and contemplation—places with social and cosmological meaning. Each reminds us that water, from a human perspective, is an instrument of mental and spiritual well-being. And that working with nature is the best design strategy. Of the river projects, the one by Morphogenesis (A River in Need) illustrates this best, working with the ebb and flow of tides along the river Ganga, temporally adjusting human space to hydrological space.

Often, an issue like this leaves us wishing for more, say, projects showing water as habitat. There are two here—the Lingang Bird Airport and Mangrove Tetrapods—but there could and should be others out there. We might also wish for projects that speak to the importance of water as transportation. There are cities in Asia where water-based mobility has been the cornerstone of development—Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok come to mind—where investment in the water transportation is long overdue. Lastly, there are not enough examples of integration, where a water system simultaneously creates social and ecological value.

A noteworthy exception is Singapore, Asia’s Little Blue Dot. With a population of 5.5 million and growing, the small city-state relies heavily on water from Malaysia. The article on four taps tells the story of diversification, integration and political will. Singapore now has (a) vastly increased its rainwater catchment and detention areas through land-use policies and urban infrastructure, (b) invested in technologies that recycle waste water to potable standards, and (c) invested in desalination plants. Imports, by the year 2060, will be altogether eliminated, making the island self-sufficient.

This then is an argument that is not often heard when experts talk about sustainability: that a solution for resilience and self-interest should also make for a more beautiful, more inclusive, world.

Happy reading.

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