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  Straits Times 2 Nov 07
Seize chance to clean up Lake Tai, S'pore firms told
S'pore's expertise in environment management will help: Minister
By Sim Chi Yin

NANJING - SINGAPORE environment management companies should jump in to help clean up polluted Lake Tai in eastern Jiangsu province, Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said yesterday.

Addressing local officials and Singapore officials and businessmen gathered in Nanjing, Mr Khaw said the Republic's expertise in that field will come in handy in China's billion-dollar cleanup plan for the lake.

Lake Tai, China's thirdlargest and the main water source for Jiangsu's Wuxi city, was hit by its worst-ever algae bloom in late May, after years of holding massive amounts of untreated sewage, and industrial and agricultural waste.

The crisis left two million residents without drinking water for days and put off tourists and businesses.

While the Jiangsu authorities declared just weeks later that Wuxi's tap water was cleaner than ever, they also pledged to pump in 108.5 billion yuan (S$21 billion) over the next five years to improve the lake's water quality.

Mr Khaw, who is on a three-day visit to Nanjing, later told Singapore journalists: 'The decision to clean up Lake Tai is already made. The political will is there and the funds are there... As usual there'll be global interest in a huge project like this and they will be tendering out...'

Calling on Singapore companies to seize the opportunity, Mr Khaw said: 'If our businessmen don't get a slice of those activities, I think I will be disappointed.'

The new Singapore-Jiangsu Cooperation Council Mr Khaw launched yesterday may well smooth the way for Singapore companies.

For starters, Jiangsu is certainly keen to tap Singapore's deep well of experience in dealing with water pollution, said Mr Liang Baohua, the province's recently appointed top official.

'We have a comprehensive action plan for cleaning up Lake Tai... We will import high-tech equipment, technologies and also learn from other countries' experience, including those of Japan, Singapore and Europe,' added Mr Liang, who is now both Jiangsu's party secretary and governor.

One of his province's key focus, going ahead, is environment management and energy conservation, he said, meeting the Singapore media after co-chairing the bilateral council's first meeting with Mr Khaw.

Those tasks are in line with Beijing's call for 'scientific development' - President Hu Jintao's pet agenda for more balanced and sustainable development reaffirmed at the recent 17th Party Congress.

Runaway economic growth in China for the past three decades has left the country with massive air and water pollution problems, which Beijing and local governments are now struggling to fix.

Environmental services is top on the list of five areas of cooperation between Singapore and Jiangsu laid down in the council's work plan for next year.

The council, Singapore's sixth with Chinese provinces, will boost bilateral economic cooperation and broaden ties with Jiangsu - already Singapore's top investment location in China.

Singapore's work with Jiangsu dates back to 1994 with the flagship Suzhou Industrial Park project, but it is now time to extend cooperation in a 'more systematic and comprehensive way', said Mr Khaw.

While the other five councils focus on drawing Singapore businesses to relatively unexplored provinces such as Liaoning and Shandong, the Jiangsu one builds on solid ground.

Singapore is already the No. 4 top foreign investor in the province but the new council will 'help focus attention and achieve a more speedy development' of ties, Mr Khaw noted.

And while the other councils deal mainly with economic and trade ties - as their names suggest - this 'cooperation council' will also work in the broader areas of training, tourism and education.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan, who is also on the trip, will go to Suzhou today.

Yesterday, he launched an IT park built by Singapore company Ascendas.

Related articles on Singapore: general environmental issues
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