AS more of Asia’s population move to its cities, there is growing pressure on governments to quickly develop urban infrastructure such as housing, transportation and schools to meet the needs of city dwellers.
However, as some governments may not have sufficient resources to cope with the problems that result from rapid urbanisation – such as congestion and pollution – private sector players will have to play a part in delivering the solutions required.
Experts believe that urbanisation is one megatrend of the 21st century that will have a major impact on the global economy. Asia is the world’s fastest urbanising region, with 64 per cent of its people expected to live in cities by 2050.
China’s urban population alone has risen by more than 500 million people in the past three decades. By 2030, its cities are forecast to house around a billion people.
To cope with this wave, more investment needs to be made in transportation networks to reduce reliance on private vehicles; more high-rise homes need to be built to accommodate growing populations, and utilities and public services have to be developed to meet the needs of residents. Ensuring that development of such infrastructure is both disaster-resilient and sustainable is another key challenge.
Singapore has long been held up as a model for urban development around the world, and is particularly renowned for developing high quality affordable housing as well as infrastructure that has fuelled its economic progress. For instance, the Republic’s industrial park infrastructure, airport and seaports have been recognised as being among the best in the world. By one estimate, the global urban planning market is worth US$3 trillion.
Singapore-based private sector players such as Ascendas-Singbridge and Surbana Jurong have parlayed their expertise at home into a key role helping countries in the region develop their infrastructure.
While urbanisation can fuel economic growth, experts say it also contributes to the depletion of global resources. Meanwhile, some of the effects of climate change – including rising sea levels around coastal cities and extreme weather events – will hit cities the hardest. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that seven million people died, or one in eight of total global deaths, as a result of air pollution exposure in 2012, a large proportion residing in urban areas.