Channel NewsAsia: Being green & sustainable means living in dense, well-planned cities

Channel NewsAsia reports that Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan has declared that the way to sustainable urban environments lie in dense but well planned cities.

Being green & sustainable means living in dense, well-planned cities

SINGAPORE: Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said being green and sustainable in the future is about living in dense, well-planned, well-implemented cities.

Dr Vivian added that these cities are where political, economic and social goods can be distributed fairly and cost-effectively.

Dr Vivian noted that this insight by the UN Habitat was remarkably apt for Singapore.

Dr Vivian, who is attending the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio De Janeiro, made this point at a Global Town Hall discussion. The session discussed the future sustainability of urban environments.

Dr Vivian cited Singapore’s experience in converting strategic constraints like water shortage into a strategic opportunity. Singapore companies now go all over the world to sell our technologies and implement systems for water recycling and desalination.

On another point, the United Nations has estimated that by 2050, 80 per cent of the world’s population will be urbanised. Dr Vivian noted that the balance of power will lie in the cities and said that there are great opportunities there.

Dr Vivian cited several critical ingredients for this to happen.

Firstly, honest competent governments. The political system, he stressed, has to work, have legitimacy and have support from people.

Second, a long-term perspective is needed as almost every worthwhile project cannot be completed in one electoral term.

Dr Vivian said there needs to be a political system and politicians that are able to look beyond one cycle, up to 50 years down the road. Without that perspective, vision cannot be translated into reality.

The third ingredient is money. Dr Vivian said if plans are well made, there are ways to raise funds from the private sector to invest in projects that make commercial sense rather than having them funded entirely out of government taxation.

Lastly, focussing on the politics of opportunity rather the politics of envy. Dr Vivian noted that any successful city will create a certain amount of inequality. He said the real issues are access to fairness and justice, equality in the eyes of the law, access to clean air and safe water, access to education and jobs, and social mobility.

Sharing Singapore’s experience, Dr Vivian said there is no subsidy for consumption. Everyone pays the full price but the less well-off receive targeted assistance. Fossil fuels and water are not subsidised.

The exception is subsidising the ownership of assets. He explained that everyone would have a chance to buy a flat because that is an asset.

Image by IanBrowne


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