SINGAPORE, July 1 /PRNewswire/ --World Cities Summit -- Clean and adequate water and clean air rank as among the current top concerns for some cities around the world – with waste management, jobs, housing, and balancing development and the environment identified as the next most pressing issues today. That is the response from a sampling of city leaders and urban planners who attended Singapore's World Cities Summit 2010, held June 28-July 1. The group surveyed represents cities on four continents and in both developed and developing nations, including Australia, France, India, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, the United States, and Vietnam.
Asked about issues of greatest concern over the next five years, respondents pointed to waste management, jobs, housing, and balancing development and environment as some of the key issues. In addition, they ranked urban greenery as most important for making a city liveable, followed by urban planning, public housing, cultural vibrancy, and water management.
Those issues are representative of the many challenges participants addressed in Singapore at the World Cities Summit 2010. The Summit is a premier international event focusing on issues of leadership and governance, the building of sustainable and eco-friendly cities, and the fostering of harmonious and sustainable communities. More than 1,000 government, industry, and business delegates from more than 60 countries gathered for the second biennial summit. They benefitted from the opportunity to hear from leading urban planning experts, to share ideas, and to see firsthand how Singapore itself is successfully addressing its own challenges in planning and environmental sustainability.
The theme of the World Cities Summit 2010 – "Liveable and Sustainable Cities for the Future" – is very apt in light of the fact that in 2008, the world crossed a significant threshold: For the first time in history, more people were living in towns and cities than in rural areas. That trend is expected to accelerate further, with predictions that by 2050, more than 70 percent of the world's population will be living in urban areas, compared to just 13 percent in 1900. As a result, cities face enormous challenges, ranging from physical space to waste management to maintaining adequate water and other resources.
Those and other issues were in the spotlight throughout the four days of the summit. On the agenda were plenary sessions addressing the interaction of people, technology, and markets, with specific emphasis on leadership and governance, eco-friendly practices, and harmonious and sustainable communities. The schedule also included expert panel sessions providing greater detail on specific challenges and solutions in areas of urban planning, infrastructure financing, public housing, built environment, waste management, climate change, and urban biodiversity. In addition, model cities and innovative urban solutions that enhance economic value while addressing environmental challenges were showcased in the premiere World Cities Summit Expo.
Complementing the summit, participants had the opportunity to view and experience firsthand some of the creative solutions Singapore itself has devised to address universal urban issues, as well as its own unique challenges. As a dense and compact island city-state, Singapore's small size and land scarcity calls for exceptionally careful land use planning; and its lack of natural resources has required highly innovative problem-solving – a Singapore national characteristic.
For example, environmental sustainability is a focal point at all levels. Through community partnerships, Singapore has set a target of increasing the national waste recycling rate from 40 percent in 2000 to 60 percent by 2012; and the Plant-A-Tree program, launched in 2007 by the National Parks Board, enlists the public to play a direct part in greening the island, both for public enjoyment and for environmental health. To date, more than 7,000 trees have been planted or pledged.
What's more, sustainable development is viewed as critical both for a more dynamic economy and a better quality of living for Singaporeans. This led a high-level Inter-Ministerial Committee for Sustainable Development to unveil a blueprint in April 2009, detailing key environmental goals and initiatives for the next two decades, focusing on conservation, energy efficiency, and economic development. The Singapore government has committed S$1 billion (US$0.71 billion) to implement the recommendations and adopted a four-pronged strategy: boosting resource efficiency, enhancing urban environments, building capabilities, and fostering community action.
Among the other urban initiatives Singapore has undertaken are the addition of 900 hectares of new parkland over the next decade; a second Green Building master plan, designed to reduce energy costs by S$1.6 billion (USD 1.14 billion) annually; the construction of high-rise residential developments with double-volume living spaces and five floors of "sky gardens;" and an underground master plan to develop subterranean spaces the complement surface space.
"With major cities around the world facing the pressures of growing urbanization, it is vital that governments, business, and communities work together to address the issues of growth, liveability, and sustainability," said Andrew Tan, Director of the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC), and concurrently the CEO of Singapore's National Environment Agency. "Currently, there is a lack of strategic platforms where leaders, policy makers, and solution providers can converge to discuss these challenges in an integrated manner. Through the biennial World Cities Summit, Singapore aims to provide such a dedicated platform for the exchange of best practices."
The World Cities Summit is co-organized by the Centre for Liveable Cities and Singapore's Civil Service College. For more information, visit www.worldcities.com.sg.
SOURCE World Cities Summit