Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mah Bow Tan moots urban planning network

A NEW platform for policymakers and urban planners to exchange ideas on sustainable development is in the works.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan mooted the idea of a Learning Network for Cities at the World Cities Summit (WCS) yesterday.

As the WCS happens once every two years, the network will allow government officials and industry professionals to share best practices on green technology, infrastructure financing and other sustainable development issues in between, he said.

The learning network will be discussed at the WCS Mayors' Forum today and more details will be shared later.

Mr Mah gave this update in his speech at the WCS opening plenary session. The event gathered high-ranking individuals from the private and public sectors to share what they thought were challenges and solutions in sustainable urbanisation.

Good urban planning was not something policymakers can ignore. According to Mr Mah, about 200,000 more people move into cities and towns every day. By 2050, 70 per cent of the global population will be living in cities, exceeding the 50 per cent today.

Strong governance, citizen engagement, a balance between development and the environment, and international collaborations are some of the key ingredients for sustainable development, he said.

Asia-Pacific will have major challenges to overcome in the urbanisation process, warned United Nations under-secretary-general and executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Noeleen Heyzer.

The large movement of people to cities, environmentally unfriendly development, poverty and climate change are threatening the urban landscape, she said. Various cities are aware of the problems and are working to resolve them. One of these is the fast growing region of Chongqing in China. Chongqing mayor Huang Qifan said that the city is planning to plant 14 square kilometres of trees, and build 40 million sq m of public rental housing to cope with rapid urbanisation.

In the Netherlands, the government launched a Delta Programme and set up a Delta fund to protect the country against flooding. Some 59 per cent of the country is flood-prone, said the programme's government commissioner Wim Kuijken.

Commenting on the WCS after the opening plenary session, Mr Mah said that there is much for Singapore to learn. 'There are many challenges we may face in the future', he said.

Climate change is one of these, he continued. When it comes to managing water levels for instance, Singapore can learn from the Netherlands.

Source: Business Times, 30 Jun 2010

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