Southeast Asia, a home for more than 649 million inhabitants, is expected to grow to 660 million by 2025 [[1]]. The rising population will impact the people’s quality of life due to lack of access to clean water and uncontrolled air pollution.

Approximately 844 million people live with lack of access to safe and clear water worldwide, of whom around 110 million are located in Southeast Asia [2]. Cambodia (64,8%), Indonesia (73,7%), Lao PDR (77,5%) and Myanmar (80,2%) are the four countries in the region which have the lowest percentage access to safe drinking water. Only Singapore and Brunei Darussalam have a 100% access to safe drinking water [3].

Clean air is another environmental problem in Southeast Asia. Fast urbanization, forest fire and fossil burning cause air pollution in the region. Air pollution causes health problems, particularly for lung diseases and cardiovascular system. Industry, transportation and fossil power plants are major contributors to air pollution. As a result, air pollution continues to increase at an alarming rate that can affect people’s quality of life.

Against this backdrop, the 2021 Underwriters Laboratories-ASEAN-U.S. Science Prize for Women will focus on clean water and clean air which are not limited to access to clean & safe water and air pollution only, but also emphasize how science, technology and innovation can bring about positive outcomes and by improving water or air quality for ASEAN. The prize contest is open to female applicants in two categories (Mid-career and Senior Scientists) who are engaged in research related to the clean water and clean air in the region and who are role models for other women working in and pursuing careers in STEM fields. Applications are welcome from researchers or lecture in universities or research institutes as well as from scientists / researchers / experts / technologists / innovators from governmental bodies and private sector or even any environmental activists from Civil Society Organizations (CSO) or Non-Government Organizations (NGO).

[1] ASEAN Secretariat Yearbook 2019, Jakarta: ASEAN Secretariat, December 2019.

[2] Sam Geal, https://www.thethirdpole.net/2019/11/20/southeast-asia-and-the-right-to-safe-water/, November 2019

[3] ASEAN Statistical Leaflet 2019, https://www.aseanstats.org/publication/asean-statistical-leaftlet-2019/, September 2019