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Van Kleef Centre receives royal touch

25 January 2013

Left photo: (from left) Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Ms Grace Fu, Queen Beatrix, Prince Willem-Alexander, Princess Máxima and NUS Board of Trustees Chairman Mr Wong Ngit Liong touring the Van Kleef Centre.
Right photo: Prince Willem-Alexander receiving a gift from Mr Wong.

Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, accompanied by the Prince of Orange His Royal Highness Willem-Alexander, Her Royal Highness Princess Máxima and a high-level Dutch delegation, visited the Singapore-Delft Water Alliance (SDWA) and NUSDeltares on 25 January during her first state visit to Singapore.

Queen Beatrix witnessed the renaming of the water research facility housing the Aquatic Science Centre (ASC) to the "Van Kleef Centre" in honour of Mr Karel Willem Benjamin van Kleef. The Dutch philanthropist, who resided in Singapore in the 19th and early 20th century, donated the proceeds of his whole estate to the country. The Van Kleef Aquarium, Singapore's first aquarium, was constructed from the gift, but it was subsequently demolished in 1998.

The christening of the facility was led by Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-At-Large of Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Rector of the Tembusu College at NUS. Prof Koh was pleased that the legacy of Mr van Kleef has been restored in the country's collective memory. He said: "It is important for Singapore to remember and honour our foreign friends who have been good to us."

Professor Tan Eng Chye, NUS Provost and Acting NUS President, agreed and noted that Mr van Kleef's "spirit of generosity could live on through this NUS research facility bearing his name."

A 1,800-square-metre outdoor research facility along the banks of Sungei Ulu Pandan inaugurated in 2009, the ASC is managed by the SDWA - a joint Centre of Excellence for Water Knowledge involving NUS, Singapore water agency PUB and Deltares (the Netherlands). The state-of-the-art environmental observatory and experimental centre is home to researchers from various disciplines and policy makers who work on integrated and sustainable approaches to urban freshwater management. It is also used for training, knowledge sharing and public outreach.

At the Centre, researchers showed the Dutch delegation key innovative projects on urban water management and water-sensitive urban design. They also demonstrated techniques for evaluating the chemical contaminants in mangrove systems.

While in Singapore, Queen Beatrix called on President Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. She also met the local Dutch community at various organised events.

Click here for Prof Koh's speech.