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Cities can offer solutions for problems it creates

Cities might be the greatest consumers of resources and energy, but they are also hotbeds of innovation and ideas which can offer solutions to these very challenges posed by cities, said Singapore’s deputy prime minister Teo Chee Hean at the opening ceremony of the World Cities Summit.

Speaking at Suntec City on Monday Evening, Mr Teo, who is also Defence Minister noted that the growth of cities and mega-city regions, has accelerated in recent years at an unprecedented rate.

In 2009, there were 21 megacities. But 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.

Mr Teo cited a World Bank report which described rapid urbanization as possibly “the single greatest development challenge and opportunity in our century”.

“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.”

Despite its big carbon footprint, cities are hotbeds of innovation and “magnets for investments, talent and capital” which can harness these resources to tackle the global challenges, said Mr Teo.

“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.”

Mr Teo also said cities should share information and best practices through visionary leadership, good governance, long-term planning, strong processes, and technological innovations.

Organisers of the conference - the Centre for Liveable Cities and Singapore’s Civil Service College - said yesterday about 15,000 delegates will converge in Singapore and 50 new urban solutions will make their debut at the World Cities Summit and the Singapore International Water Week, which runs in parallel.

The latter event drives the global water agenda by bringing together the entire water value chain at its five flagship events and more than 100 co-located events. Themed “Sustainable Cities: Clean and Affordable Water”, the Singapore International Water Week 2010 will focus on the need for efficiency and cost effective solutions to address water problems in a constantly changing environment.

Mr Michael Toh, Managing Director, Singapore International Water Week said: “With water being so deeply intertwined with other parts of the economy, there needs to be close collaboration across different systems and geographies to ensure the availability of clean and affordable water.”

Director of the World Cities Summit Edwin Seah added: “Across the world, cities are facing numerous challenges, ranging from resource constraints to environmental pressures. But working together – with industry, with the community, and with each other – solutions to these problems can be found.”

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