Channel NewsAsia: Translating concepts into reality at Tianjin Eco-city

Channel NewsAsia has reported Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city CEO Mr Ho Tong Yen’s future plans for the project. The full story below.

Translating concepts into reality at Tianjin Eco-city

BEIJING: The next phase of development of the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city will be on implementation and translating concepts into realities. Speaking to the media in his first interview since becoming CEO, Mr Ho Tong Yen said that one of the project’s immediate priorities is to develop an Eco-information park.

The integrated hub will cater to companies in IT-related sectors, and is expected to begin at the end of the year or early next year.

The Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city is the second major government project between China and Singapore. Its goal is to develop a livable and efficient city in an ecologically sound and environmentally sustainable way.

Mr Ho said one of the city’s current priorities is to continue with business and residential development. That is to ensure that residents can move into the Eco-city by 2012, and the start-up area completed by end of 2013.

He said: “The next broad cluster of priorities would be on economic development because Eco does not make a city, and it’s important for us to bring in the economic buzz and vibrancy to the Eco-city.”

Another project in the pipeline is the development of a low-carbon living laboratory which is intended as a showcase for eco-technologies. That is expected to appeal to Singapore companies keen to invest in the area.

Mr Ho points out that the Eco-city is more than just a commercial and residential development.

“It’s also probably the largest international project that the Singapore government has undertaken in sustainable development. Sustainable development and urbanisation, these are challenges that many countries around the world are facing. In fact I think we are breaking new ground in many areas and the Eco-city has drawn a lot of international attention.

“I think that in time to come, this will be a model that many people will study, some cities will replicate certain aspects of the concept we have developed here. They may not replicate Eco-city in its whole but I think as long as some ideas are replicated elsewhere, then I think we would have made a very big contribution to sustainable development.

“What we are trying to develop here is not a utopian model of sustainable development. We are not advocates of people going back to horse-drawn carts or not using air-conditioning at all. What we are trying to do is show that we can achieve sustainable development in very practical ways and cost effective ways.”

Replicable areas include green transportation, and ensuring that buildings are well-ventilated and get sufficient sunlight even in winter.

Mr Ho said: “I think the Eco-city is not a case of China learning from Singapore. We are here working together, taking advantage of the best practices and knowledge in each of our systems in order to try and development the first of its kind Eco-city. Chairman Cui from the local government has a very nice metaphor. He talked about how the Chinese emphasise speed, we emphasise quality. So if we are able to marry the two concepts then we have quality and speed, which is really the best of both worlds.”

Mr Ho also explained why he took up the CEO position as former Singapore Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong had expressed surprise at his decision. Prior to taking up this position, Mr Ho was press secretary to Mr Goh.

Mr Ho said: “He may be referring to the fact that the development of the Eco-city is very different from what I used to do in the past. But I would say my experience as a diplomat has been helpful because a lot of what I do now involves discussing and negotiating with different parties, narrowing differences and views, and trying to steer everyone towards a common goal of developing a successful Eco-City.

“I see my role as being the conductor of this orchestra of talent so that we can harness everyone’s collective knowledge and experience.”

Mr Ho said the Eco-city is a way of life that will create many opportunities for Singapore companies in the field of sustainable urban development. He added that despite the cabinet changes in Singapore following the recent general election, the Chinese side understands that the island will continue to provide strong support to the project.

Image taken from KepCorp

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