ST: Cities ‘need joint effort to tackle challenges’

The Straits Times today published this story on yesterday’s World Cities Summit launch.

Cities ‘need joint effort to tackle challenges’

Sharing expertise, testing ideas can produce blueprint for progress: DPM Teo

By Robin Chan

At the Agency for Science, Technology and Research booth yesterday, researcher Han Boon Siew (left) shows Mr Teo (second from left) how a robot, Mika, can serve a cup of coffee. With them are Dr Yaacob (Mr Teo’s left) and National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan. — ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

CITIES might seem a jumble of congestion and chaos, but there are ways to tackle their huge challenges.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean told an international convention last night that sharing expertise, meeting at global forums and test-bedding ideas can give cities a blueprint for progress.

The global challenges facing cities today are more complex and so require a more coordinated response across borders, he noted.

Developing a long-term integrated approach to sustainability, together with good governance, will help cities ‘reap high dividends’, added Mr Teo, who was speaking at the launch of the third annual Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) and the second biennial World Cities Summit.The growth of cities has reached an unprecedented rate.

There were just two megacities in 1950 – in New York and Tokyo – but 21 last year,and by 2025, there are estimated to be 29. A megacity has a population of more than 10 million.’People congregate in cities because of the promise of a better life that cities offer,’ said Mr Teo, who is also Defence Minister.

‘It is thus imperative to look at how best we can manage the growth of cities in a way that can meet the aspirations of the people, fulfil that promise, and yet is sustainable to the environment that we share.’Economically and environmentally, cities are becoming more interdependent as they share problems like congestion, pollution and even public health hazards like haze that may cross boundaries.But cities, because they attract talent and investment, are also a source of innovation and ideas for solutions to these challenges.Cities should share their expertise through collaborative projects, said Mr Teo, citing the example of the Tianjin Eco-City in China that is being jointly developed by Singapore and China.Cities can also use global forums such as these ‘to promote and facilitate the exchange of global best practices, new ideas and innovative technologies’.And while many cities are already investing in infrastructure and test-bedding technologies like smart grids, renewable energy and water solutions, he urged governments and organisations to put more emphasis on them.’We need to go beyond our own city and national boundaries to share insights, and address issues that have regional or global impact,’ he said.At an earlier press conference with the organisers of the summit and Water Week, summit director Edwin Seah said the event at Suntec ‘is not just a collection of speakers to discuss issues relating to urbanisation, but to also share from Singapore’s perspective’.Mr Seah said the summit tries to differentiate itself from similar urban forums by focusing on five key elements of a liveable city: good governance, urban planning, quality of life, the economy and environmental protection. Water Week managing director Michael Toh said expectations are for this year to surpass last year’s bumper deal flow of $2.2 billion.’Without guessing what (the companies) are going to announce, all the components of SIWW are seeing stronger responses…so we are expecting that the number will be larger if not better compared to last year,’ he said. 

With more than 50 ministers, mayors and governors in attendance, in addition to delegates from more than 30 countries, the World Cities Summit clearly plays a significant role in addressing the pressing issues` of cities around the world, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, said in his welcome remarks at the launch of the events last night.

chanckr@sph.com.sg

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