Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Teo Chee Hean at the Opening Ceremony of the World Cities Summit 2010 and the Singapore International Water Week 2010
Your Royal Highness, Prince Willem-Alexander, the Prince of Orange from The Netherlands
Ladies and Gentlemen
Please allow me to first warmly welcome everyone here this evening. I am pleased to join you for the opening ceremony of two major events – the Singapore International Water Week 2010 and the second World Cities Summit.
2. The growth of cities and mega-city regions, has accelerated in recent years at an unprecedented rate. In 1950, the world knew only two megacities - New York and Tokyo – each with more than 10 million people. In 2009, there were 21 megacities. By 2025, 15 years from now, the world can expect 29 megacities. Besides the emergence of megacities, second and third tier cities are also building up rapidly in developing countries.
3. In a report released by the World Bank last year, rapid urbanisation is described as possibly “the single greatest development challenge and opportunity in our century”, as the pace of urbanization is much faster now than before. People congregate in cities because of the promise of a better life that cities offer. 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 and yet is sustainable to the environment that we share.
Cities at Forefront of Global Challenges and Change
4. Cities are major producers of the goods and services that people want. But the other side of the coin is that they have a huge appetite for resources, and generate large amounts of waste which people don’t want. They are major energy consumers and contributors of carbon emissions. Their environmental footprint is large because of their sheer size, and also because of the concentration of activity in a geographical area. They are faced with many inter-related issues such as congestion, air and water pollution, and public health hazards - and some of these are trans-boundary in nature such as haze. There is growing interdependence among cities, both in terms of economic and environmental impacts.
5. Events such as the Icelandic volcanic eruption are a timely reminder that in spite of our considerable human achievements, we are still subject to the power and vagaries of nature. Such large scale natural phenomena can disrupt a major or several major urban areas. Concerns over climate change, particularly its impact on coastal cities, have added a new layer of complexity.
6. At the same time, cities are hotbeds of innovation and ideas which can offer solutions to these very challenges posed by cities. As magnets for investments, talent and capital, cities can harness these resources to tackle the global challenges. By addressing the problem of achieving sustainable development in cities, we are finding solutions for an increasing majority of the global population who will be urban dwellers.
7. Visionary leadership, good governance, long-term planning, strong processes, and technological innovations are key success factors.
8. As I speak, many cities are making efforts and committing resources to transform themselves into more liveable and vibrant cities. Bilbao City Hall, the inaugural winner of the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, has regenerated and transformed Bilbao City in Spain over 25 years, from an old industrial city with declining industries into a modern and vibrant city. Bilbao City Hall has shown that strong leadership and an integrated approach are critical to achieving economic, social and physical transformations. It is also an excellent example of how in remaking itself, a city needs to give due emphasis to both its “hardware” including infrastructure improvements and environmental clean-up, as well as the “softer” aspects such as culture and design. Other cities around the world like Chongqing and Rizhao in China, Lagos (Nigeria), Phoenix (USA), Manama (Bahrain) and Malmo (Sweden), have also launched ambitious plans to transform themselves into more dynamic and sustainable global cities.
Water – A Strategic Resource but Limited in Supply
9. Ensuring a safe, reliable and affordable supply of water is one of the major challenges faced by cities. Towns and cities were established where water was available. As they grow, cities can strain and exhaust the water sources that first gave them life, stifling their own future growth. As water is a scarce resource in many parts of the world, it is even more critical for cities to manage this resource well to secure their own future.
10. The efforts to ensure a sustainable supply of clean and affordable water go beyond individual cities. Often, it requires collective efforts from key stakeholders in a region or river basin to manage water resources that are shared. For example, The Yellow River Conservancy Commission, this year’s Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize winner, has shown outstanding achievements in integrated river basin management to restore and protect the Yellow River, which over 100 million people rely on.
Singapore’s Experience – Dealing with Sustainable Urban Living in a Holistic Way
From Independence to Today
11. As a small city-state with no natural resources and a high population density (about 7000 per sq km), Singapore has always had to struggle with basic issues of liveability and sustainability. As we gained independence in 1965, Singapore faced serious basic bread and butter problems – problems that are familiar to many cities today – unemployment, housing, public health and safety, transportation, education, sanitation, and the provision of safe and adequate drinking water.
12. Long-term integrated planning has been fundamental in helping Singapore gradually overcome these problems. In 1971, we had our first long-term land use plan (the Concept Plan), which laid down the vision and strategies for Singapore over the next 40 to 50 years. A master plan was then developed to translate the strategies of the Concept Plan into detailed land use plans for transport, housing, industries, green spaces, water catchments and reservoirs. This master plan guides Singapore’s development over a 10 to 15 year period, and is reviewed every 5 years. Together, the Concept Plan and Master Plan help to ensure sustainable development of Singapore through efficient use of land.
13. Water has always been a key consideration in our master-planning, for it is a critical resource without which the city cannot survive, let alone grow. The rapid growth of industries and population in the 1970s made it more urgent for Singapore to look for new and innovative ways to develop more water sources. Our first three reservoirs were located in protected catchments which were kept pristine by disallowing developments. Through careful planning and stringent pollution control, we were also able to create reservoirs in more parts of Singapore which were more developed. Today, we have 15 reservoirs, with another 2 reservoirs being developed by next year.
14. However, relying on natural sources of water alone was not sufficient. Research and innovative ideas, and tapping on the private sector have also played an important role in developing good solutions. A breakthrough in modern membrane technology led to the implementation of desalination as well as large-scale water reuse to produce NEWater in the 2000s. These are key milestones in Singapore’s quest for water security which add diversity, resilience and reliability to our water supply system. They are not dependent on rainfall and help to boost our drought-resilience.
15. Water reuse and desalination are commercially viable solutions that are not only workable in Singapore, but globally as well. Several Singapore-based companies have capitalised on these technologies and their track record in major water projects around the world. For example, Hyflux is building one of the world’s largest desalination plants (500,000 cu m/day) using reverse osmosis membrane technology in Algeria.
Ensuring Sustainability into the Future
16. The challenges of sustainable cities continue to loom large as we look into the future. Singapore has thus been taking pro-active steps early. We have set out targets in the Sustainable Singapore blueprint (launched in April 2009) to bring about more efficient use of resources and develop diversified sources of water and energy, to provide sustainable growth for our population and economy.
17. PUB, our national water agency, is releasing today a new publication “Water for All: Conserve, Value, Enjoy – Meeting our water needs for the next 50 years”. The publication presents Singapore’s long-term plan for water for the next 50 years. With water demand forecasted to double in the next 50 years, Singapore plans to collect every drop of rain by expanding our catchments to 90 per cent of our land area. Water reuse and desalination will play a bigger role as key sources of water supply. In the long term, Singapore plans to triple its current NEWater capacity and ramp up desalination capacity by almost 10 times so that these two sources are able to meet 50 per cent and 30 per cent of our future water demand in the long term, should this be necessary.
18. We will also be unveiling details of the plan to build a second desalination plant to enhance our drought resilience soon. The new plant will be built through a Design-Build-Own-Operate approach, based on a public-private sector partnership to enhance supply efficiency and help keep the cost of water as affordable as possible.
19. Besides putting in the hard infrastructure, we will also continue to enhance our public spaces by transforming them into more pleasant and vibrant areas for the community and residents to enjoy. The Active, Beautiful and Clean Waters (ABC Waters) programme is transforming Singapore’s drains, canals and reservoirs into vibrant and clean streams, rivers and lakes, thus enhancing the quality of life and bringing people closer to the water. The Garden City programme will continue as a key effort to provide greenery within our densely built environment and conserve our city’s biodiversity. We are also developing a City Biodiversity Index in partnership with the UN’s Convention of Biological Diversity. Together, these programmes will help transform Singapore into a City of Gardens and Waters.
20. Singapore has pledged to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 16 per cent below Business-As-Usual (BAU) in 2020, contingent on a legally binding global agreement in which all countries implement their commitments in good faith. This is a stretch target for us. We will increase energy efficiency across all sectors, which will reduce our use of fossil fuels to less than we otherwise would have, and thereby cut carbon emissions as well as other air pollutants. Even though a legally binding agreement has yet to be achieved, Singapore will begin to implement the mitigation and energy efficiency measures announced under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint.
Fostering International Collaboration
21. The global challenges today are multi-faceted and more often than not require a coordinated response across borders. It is therefore imperative that cities continue to share knowledge and experiences so that innovative and better solutions can be developed. I would like to make three suggestions on how this can be done.
Greater Sharing of Expertise
22. First, there should be more sharing of expertise between cities. The best learning can take place amongst cities that face common challenges. We hope to promote more peer-to-peer sharing of expertise and encourage collaborative projects. An example is the Singapore-China partnership to co-develop the 30 square kilometre Tianjin Eco-City in China into a socially harmonious, environmentally-friendly, resource-efficient and economically vibrant city, to serve as a model for sustainable development. It will be home to a projected population of 350,000 when fully developed, with the first group of residents possibly moving into their homes as early as the second half of next year. This is the second flagship bilateral cooperation project between Singapore and China after the successful Suzhou Industrial Park, which occupies 288 square kilometres (of which 80 square kilometers belongs to the China-Singapore Cooperation Zone), and is home to more than 700,000 people. Fostering Global Dialogue on Cities
23. Second, we can also leverage on global platforms, such as the Singapore International Water Week and World Cities Summit, to promote and facilitate the exchange of global best practices, new ideas and innovative technologies. The Mayors’ Forum and Water Leaders Summit are two events this week that allow for high-level interaction among leaders and decision-makers. These platforms also provide excellent opportunities for networking and interaction among cities, leaders, international organisations and industry. During the week, the recipients of the Lee Kuan Yew Water and World City prizes will also be sharing their experiences and insights with us. I encourage you to take this opportunity to interact with them.
Greater Investments in R&D and Test-bedding of Solutions
24. Third, we urge governments and organizations around the world to give added emphasis and support to the research, development and test-bedding of solutions. Many cities today are investing in new infrastructure, and test-bedding technology and concepts like smart grids, renewable energy, water solutions and sustainable urban design.
25. The CleanTech Park, Singapore’s first eco-business park is one such platform. The cluster of companies, corporate and public research labs at CleanTech Park will serve as a “Living Laboratory” for R&D and testing of Clean Technologies and Urban Solutions, which have the potential to be scaled up for implementation and commercialization in the region and beyond.
26. Punggol, a public housing estate in the north-eastern part of Singapore, will also be developed as Singapore’s first Eco-town for the tropics. Punggol has been planned with smaller, more intimate precincts and a well-integrated public transport network to support green living. With its first eco-precinct (Treelodge@Punggol) underway, Punggol will also serve as a ‘living lab’ to test new ideas and green technologies in the areas of energy and water management. The aim is to lower the implementation cost of these solutions and replicate them in other towns island-wide.
27. Singapore-based companies have developed expertise in areas such as Water Management and Technologies; Urban Planning and Township Development; Waste Management; and Urban Transport Mobility. We are partnering institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Technical University of Munich to carry out research on urban solutions. We welcome companies to collaborate and leverage on our integrated infrastructure to develop, test-bed and bring leading-edge urban solutions to market.
28. The growth of cities can take place in harmony with the environment. A long-term integrated approach to sustainability coupled with good governance will help cities reap high dividends. We also need to go beyond our own city and national boundaries to share insights, seek collaborations and address issues that have regional or global impact.
29. It is in this spirit that we meet for the Singapore International Water Week and World Cities Summit. People congregate in cities because of the promise of a better life that cities offer. It is our collective responsibility to live up to this promise and build liveable and sustainable cities that will enhance the well-being of people all over the world. After all, these are places which we all call home.
Source: Economic Development Board