Research Proposal


Research Topic (Global Challenge): Clean Water

Chosen Area of Focus: Does industrialization necessarily lead to water pollution? A comparative study between three of the most major countries that go through industrialization, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.

Group Members’ Names:
a) Claire Tham
b) Zhao Siting
c) Walter Koh
d) Sim Hng Anh

1. Statement of problem (framing our research topic):

After scoping for a project that is feasible, we have decided to determine the relationship between GDP and water pollution rates for Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea. We have narrowed down our chosen area of focus and came up with a proper phrased question to help us in our research so that we ourselves would not get confused. The question we have constructed is ‘ What is the relationship between the GDP and water pollution rates within Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea from 2000 to 2006? ’

2. Research Objectives

We want to determine the relationship between the gross domestic product rates and the water pollution rates so that we can see the link between industrialization and water pollution in Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.

3. Literature Review

Water covers 70% of our planet, and it is easy to think that it will always be plentiful. However, freshwater—the stuff we drink, bathe in, irrigate our farm fields with—is incredibly rare. Only 3% of the world’s water is fresh water, and two-thirds of that is tucked away in frozen glaciers or otherwise unavailable for our use.
As a result, some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year. Inadequate sanitation is also a problem for 2.4 billion people—they are exposed to diseases, such as cholera and typhoid fever, and other water-borne illnesses. Two million people, mostly children, die each year from diarrheal diseases alone.
Many of the water systems that keep ecosystems thriving and feed a growing human population have become stressed. Rivers, lakes and aquifers are drying up or becoming too polluted to use. More than half the world’s wetlands have disappeared. Agriculture consumes more water than any other source and wastes much of that through inefficiencies. Climate change is altering patterns of weather and water around the world, causing shortages and droughts in some areas and floods in others.
At the current consumption rate, this situation will only get worse. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. And ecosystems around the world will suffer even more.

infographic taken from

As seen in the info infographic above, many people are dying due to the lack of a supply of clean water.

Water pollution comes from many sources including pesticides and fertilizers that wash away from farms, untreated human wastewater, and industrial waste. Even groundwater is not safe from pollution, as many pollutants can leach into underground aquifers. Some effects are immediate, as when harmful bacteria from human waste contaminate water and make it unfit to drink or swim in. In other instances—such as toxic substances from industrial processes—it may take years to build up in the environment and food chain before their effects are fully recognised.

Water pollution has many impacts on the environment. 50% of the world's wetlands have been destroyed since the 1900s. This eventually cause ecosystems on earth to be damaged, threatening the survival of many species. One example would be the Aral Sea. The Aral Sea in central Asia was once the world’s fourth largest freshwater lake. But in only three decades, the sea has lost an area the size of Lake Michigan. It is now as salty as an ocean due to the excessive pollution and the diversion of water for irrigation and power generation. As the sea has retracted, it has left polluted land. This ecological catastrophe has created food shortages and resulted in a rise in infant mortality and a decrease in life expectancy for the nearby population.

Past studies and experiments have been carried out, showing how industrialization negatively affect the environment. Until recently, Many researchers have shown interest in the field of water pollution. Numerous experiments have been conducted to determine things such as the pH levels of water and the different types of chemicals present in polluted water bodies. Even though industrialization brought about tremendous wealth, it has also led to severe deterioration in water quality by polluting the water bodies with chemicals and by incorrect disposal of waste products. Majority of these previous studies are only limited to how industrialization leads to water pollution but none of them show a comparison between GDP rates and water pollution rates. Our team intends to do a comparative study between three countries, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea, and show the relationship between GDP and Water Pollution rates.

How we decided on Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea

Singapore -
Singapore was once a small country with limited natural resources and a small manufacturing base with mediocre infrastructure. It neither had domestic capital nor foreign investments. Today, the picture is quite a contrast. It is one of the world's leafing economies with robust infrastructure, sizable foreign direct investments and an impressive record of phenomenal industrial growth.

After independence in 1965, Singapore began to move away from its post-war dependence on entrepot trade, broadly defined as the trading of goods that passes through Singapore from a foreign source to a foreign destination.

It embarked on industrialisation and diversification to improve its economy and to create jobs. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was a rapid expansion in manufacturing and construction. There was also an increase in domestic trade and tremendous growth in sectors like public administration, defence, tourism and finance.

Hong Kong -
Significant transformation of economic activities has taken place in Hong Kong in the past two decades. Hong Kong's manufacturing industry has declined substantially relative to its service industry, in term of employment and of contribution to GDP. Hong Kong has emerged as a centre of services, mainly manufacturing-related producer services. While growth of producer services is expected in most advanced economies, Hong Kong's transformation from an industrialized city to a centre of manufacturing-related services has been dramatically speeded up by the opening-up of the mainland Chinese economy in the past two decades. In addition to its relocation of manufacturing to mainland China, Hong Kong has played an increasingly important role as an intermediary for trade between mainland China and the world market. 

South Korea -
South Korea had industrial development policies that impacted the pattern of industrialization during the first two decades since the beginning of the First Five-year Development Plan in 1962. In South Korea, industrial policies have evolved and its industrial policy frameworks have changed in response to changes in economic conditions in the world as well as in the domestic economy. 

It is found that Korea's Industrial development has overwhelmingly been guided by industrial policy which was well-articulated in design and efficiently executed. In particular, overall macroeconomic policies affecting the pattern of industrial development have been effectively and consistently orchestrated with sector-targeted development policies. 

To summarize, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea are countries that have had extensive industrialization and are continuing to grow economically. These countries are few of the top that have the highest industrialization rates in the world and the highest GDP rates as well. Due to this reason, we have decided to base our research on Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is the sum of all goods and services sold in a country during a given year. The most common formula for calculating this is: consumption + investment + government spending + (export-imports). GDP is commonly used as a shorthand to measure a country's economic performance-the assumption being that a higher GDP indicates a successful economy.

GDP can be determined in three different ways, production, income and expenditure approach, but the most direct approach is the production approach which sums the outputs of every class of enterprise to arrive at the total.

Below is a link to a rough line graph of the GDP rates over the past few years in Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong

GDP Chart


What exactly is BOD?

BOD stands for Biochemical oxygen demand and it is the amount of dissolved oxygen needed by aerobic biological organisms in a body of water to break down organic material present in a given water sample at certain temperature over a specific time period.

Why did we chose to use the data collected for water pollution by percentage of BOD emissions?

Biochemical oxygen demand is a measure of the quantity of oxygen used by microorganisms (eg. aerobic bacteria) in the oxidation of organic matter. Most of these bacteria that are found feed on dead algae and other dead organisms. These bacteria help in the decomposition of wastes in the water. If there are more wastes, there will be more bacteria and if there are more bacteria, more oxygen will be used. Therefore, we believe that the BOD emissions rate will be the best identification for how polluted the water is.

Water Pollution

Water pollution is any chemical, physical or biological change in the quality of water that has a harmful effect on any living thing that drinks or uses or lives in it. When humans drink polluted water it often has serious effects on their health. Water pollution can also make water unsuited for the desired use.

In many places around the world, industry is the largest source of water pollution, and nearly all sources of water have some level of contamination from industrial waste and chemicals. The waste includes heavy metals, solvents and radioactive materials that eventually enter underground supplies of water. In the developing world, 70 percent of industrial waste is disposed of directly into water.

We aim to prove if there is really a linkage between water pollution rates and GDP rates or if the GDP rates are only a small factor to what affects water pollution.
4. Proposed Hypotheses

Industrialization does not necessarily lead to environmental degradation or the increase in water pollution rates.

5. Research Plan (Describe how you intend to design your research i.e. who/what you are going to research on, how many respondents, your study area/location etc)

Interviewing people who work in factories and try to research on information on google.
We would place online surveys on the internet asking question relating to our topic. We would also interview teachers and PUB staff on questions relating to our topic. Research for the individual GDP of the three countries and their water pollution index.

6. Methodology (Describe what methods you are using to collect data, where and how the data can be collected and analysed)

1] Collect GDP data and water pollution rates in Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea from 2000-2006

The three countries will be split amongst all team members. Research on the country's GDP rates from 2000-2006 and water pollution rates from 2000-2006 based on allocation of country.

2] Make necessary calculations and collate data to be represented using a line graph

The constructed line graph will show GDP growth against time, water pollution against time and finally both GDP growth and water pollution against time.

3] Analyse data from line graph and compare the results

Compare if when the GDP increased [increase in industrialization], the water pollution would get worse [environmental degradation].

7. Research Schedule

Term 1 Week _Task to be completedMinuteRemarks
1Role Allocation-DONE-
2Deciding on main Topic- Find a topic from the 15 big problems
- Generate questions
- Change the question from open to closed
- Choose three main question
- Choose the final topic
- DONE -
3Confirmation of Topic- Comfirming the topic with the teacher
- Changing the topic if necessary
- Confirming the final topic
- DONE -
4Planning for research proposalAllocation of research:
- Singapore => Claire and Siting to work together
- Hong Kong => Hng Anh
- South Koera => Walter

~ Questions 1 to 3 to be done by Claire and Siting
~ Questions 4 to 8 to be done by Walter and Hng Anh
- DONE -
5Cleaning up of blog- Hng Anh and Walter to edit blog design and create new tabs
- Confirmation of research proposal and uploading of research proposal onto blog [ Siting and Claire ]
- DONE -
6Finding of researchGDP and water pollution rates [% of BOD emissions] : [individual work to be done]
- Singapore => Claire and Siting to work together
- Hong Kong => Hng Anh
- South Korea => Walter

Tabulation of data and making of charts to compare the relationship between GDP and water pollution rates [% of BOD emissions]
7Discussion of finding for research- Discuss on our research and combine them
- Come out with a conclusion on our research topic
8Clean up of blog- Hng Anh to write up conclusion that has been discussed by the whole group
- Claire to polish up Singapore tab and literature review
- Siting to help with references and anything else if Claire and Hng Anh needs help
- Walter to polish up South Korea tab

Term 2 Week _
1Comparision and report- Making all our data into a report
- Division of labour
2Presentation preparation - Whole team to work together to make presentation slides
- Writing of script
- Rough memorizing of individual scripts 
- Practice presenting

8. Overall assessment on feasibility and manageability of the research (justify why your research can be managed and results be achieved within the time-frame)

This project is feasible because previous data has already been collected so we would only have to conduct several surveys and do a little research to have a deeper understanding of this topic. Our results can be easily tabulated after some comparison of the existing data.

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