Top photo: Mr Lee at Marina Barrage’s Groundbreaking Ceremony in March 2005.
Bottom photo: Presenting the inaugural Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize to Canadian researcher Andrew Benedek in June 2008. The prestigious international award was established to honour outstanding contributions to solving the world’s water problems. It was named after Mr Lee in recognition of his leadership in attaining water sustainability for Singapore.
Keeping our taps running
Singapore’s dependence on Malaysia for water was a profound existential matter.
Mr Lee secured two long-term water treaties with Malaysia in 1961 and 1962. To ensure they were upheld, the treaties were guaranteed in Singapore’s Separation Agreement with Malaysia, and enshrined in the Malaysian Constitution. Just before relinquishing his Prime Ministership, Mr Lee also oversaw the signing of a new supplementary water agreement with Malaysia on 24 November 1990.
Knowing the risks of the taps being turned off, Mr Lee was determined to diversify Singapore’s water sources. The result was a “Four Taps” strategy. Singapore now obtains its water from desalination, recycling, a vastly expanded local catchment system, as well as from Malaysia.
Mr Lee also drove efforts to clean up Singapore’s waterways and rivers, including the once-badly polluted Singapore River.
Because of his ingenuity and foresight, Singapore has been able to turn a strategic weakness – its lack of water – into a source of strength, innovation and competitive advantage.