Strong leaders, clear vision 'key to shaping cities'

Strong leaders, clear vision 'key to shaping cities'

SINGAPORE - Leader who are transparent and have strong political will, good financing and a long-term vision are key to the success of shaping cities that are liveable and sustainable, said local and global thought leaders at three key environment forums yesterday.

But cities, especially fast-rising ones in Asia, also grow so rapidly that they generate a lot of waste and change the climate for the worse, sometimes irrevocably.

Their main challenge, of course, is how to tackle all these fallouts without slowing their rapid growth; cities today account for as much as 70 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP).

If cities do not manage their waste, for instance, they could "stifle themselves under the load of their own pollution", warned Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. He was speaking at the Clean Environment Leaders plenary session, held as part of the CleanEnviro Summit at Marina Bay Sands.

The summit runs alongside the World Cities Summit and Singapore International Water Week. The Straits Times is the media partner for all three events.

Dr Balakrishnan said that how a city manages its environment determines the trajectory of its growth, as "people vote with their feet" and will flock to a city that is "attractive, sustainable, vibrant, as opposed to stifled, polluted, dangerous".

"In Singapore, we've had the advantage of being so small that we had no choice but to be environmentally conscious from the moment of our conception," he said.

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