Smart Cities hold Key to Sustainable Development

By Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana
BANGKOK, Thailand, Apr 3 2019 (IPS)

Asia and the Pacific’s phenomenal development has been a story
of rapid urbanization. As centres of innovation, entrepreneurship
and opportunity, cities have drawn talent from across our region
and driven economic growth which has transformed our
societies.

In southeast Asia alone, cities generate 65 percent of the
region’s GDP. Yet the ongoing scale of urbanization is a
considerable challenge, one which puts huge pressure on essential
public services, housing availability and the environment.

How we respond to this pressure, how we manage our urban centres
and plan for their future expansion in Asia and the Pacific, is
likely to decide whether recent development gains can be made
sustainable.

It is of primordial importance to Malaysia as its economy powers
towards high income status. In ASEAN countries, 90 million more
persons are expected to move to cities by 2030.

Accommodating this influx sustainably will determine whether the
United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development can be
achieved, and the climate targets of the Paris Climate Agreement
can be met.

An effective response calls for integrated planning across all
levels of government. Greater consideration needs to be given to
demographic and land use trends to anticipate their impacts and
minimize environmental damage. These trends should inform our
investments in infrastructure but also in water, energy and
transport services.

Closing the infrastructure gap in the region will alone require
an additional $200 billion of investment a year until 2030. We know
local government revenues are mostly insufficient and fiscal
decentralization inadequate to respond to this need.

Intelligent fiscal reforms to improve local revenues are likely
to be necessary and we will need to consider how we can capture
land value and use Public-Private Partnerships.

In the most disaster-prone region in the world, it is incumbent
on us to reduce the risk of natural disasters to which millions of
urban dwellers are exposed. By 2030, vulnerable populations living
in extreme risk areas – along river banks, canals and slopes –
are expected to have grown by fifty percent since 2015 in many of
region’s major cities.

Some cities, including Melaka, are participating in initiatives
such as the 100 Resilient Cities, focused on community-based
disaster risk reduction. Yet this effort needs to be given even
greater scale if we are to achieve risk resilient cities in our
region. Accelerating our multilateral cooperation and best practice
sharing could make a valuable contribution to doing so.

New technologies hold great promise for more effective urban
solutions. From smart grids and district energy solutions, or
real-time traffic management, to waste management and water
systems, smart technologies will enable our future cities to
operate more effectively.

They could also make them more inclusive and accessible for
persons with disabilities. We have an opportunity to incorporate
universal design standards and systems such as automated access to
audio-based communications to improve accessibility to cities for
persons with disabilities.

We must encourage smart city developers to use standards which
would give persons with diverse disabilities full access to the
physical infrastructure and information others enjoy.

As we look to overcome all these challenges, the ASEAN Smart
Cities Network designed to mobilize smart solutions throughout
southeast Asia, is a welcome development on which we must
build.

The implementation of this network is something the organization
I represent, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for
Asia and the Pacific, has worked to support.

Combined with the ASEAN’s broader Sustainable Urbanization
Strategy, it is helping provide much needed resource in the region
to manage urbanization better. Twenty-six cities, including Kuala
Lumpur and Johor Bahru are developing visions for their cities to
apply technologies for smart and sustainable urban development.

The expertise being acquired is invaluable to the broader
region’s effort. Malaysia has a leading role to play. At the 9th
World Urban Forum Malaysia hosed last year, experts came from the
world over to focus on cities for all and the New Urban Agenda.

In October 2019, the 7th Asia Pacific Urban Forum will be held
in Penang. My hope is that this can focus minds and galvanize
support for best practice to be shared and sustainable urban
development to be prioritized in Asia and the Pacific.

The post
Smart Cities hold Key to Sustainable Development
appeared first
on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is UN
Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United
Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
(ESCAP).

The post
Smart Cities hold Key to Sustainable Development
appeared first
on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Smart Cities hold Key to Sustainable Development