“What really touched me was when the Dutch Ambassador to Singapore said the award would go to an engineer, someone who actually does the work.
“Usually the people who get recognition are the bosses because they’re the ones leading the team, so I’m very happy that a worker got it,” he added.
The award, which is given to those who have rendered long-term meritorious service to society, was in recognition of his work in raising awareness of the polder technique.
Emeritus Professor Kees of Angremond, who knighted Mr Chia, said Mr Chia has consistently helped bridge the cultural gap between the Dutch and Singapore’s water world.
“He not only contributed to the acceptance of the polder concept in Singapore, but he also resolved many potential misunderstandings between everyone involved.”
Polders are large areas of reclaimed land that are protected from the sea by structures such as dykes and canals.
They are widely used in the Netherlands, where around a third of the land is below sea level, to turn flood-prone areas into usable land for people.
This is an option Singapore is currently exploring to deal with rising sea levels, amid worsening effects of climate change.
The country partnered closely with the Netherlands to design and build the polder, drawing on the experience of the European country and adapting it to Singapore’s tropical context.