The World Cities Summit opened in Singapore on Tuesday with a warning by the country's Prime Minister that sustainable urban development must be forged in good governance, energy efficiency, good water management and air pollution controls based on proper urban planning.
In a welcoming address to more than 6,000 government officials, scientists, industry experts and business leaders from more than 70 countries, the Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Hsien Loong said: Sustainable urbanization has become especially important with urbanization happening on an unprecedented scale."
In the year 1900, he said, only 46 cities in the world had populations of more than 1 million people; today there are more than 400.
"As cities grow, they put tremendous they put tremendous straing on resources and create acute challenges for environmental sustainability," he said. "How can cities develop vibrantly, and improve the the lives of their residents in ways that are compatible with the environment over the long term?"
The inaugural 2008 World Cities Summit, a premier international conference series on effective public governance and sustainable development of cities, will focus on urban development and environmental sustainability issues under the theme "Liveable and Vibrant Cities". In parallel with the summit, the southeast Asian city-state is also hosting the Singapore International Water Week.
The discussion topics address the challenges of developing cities that are both liveable and vibrant. It will cover issues related to excellent urban infrastructure, clean environment, climate change, good quality of life and economic competitiveness. Key participating partners include the World Bank, UN-HABITAT and various other international institutions as well as businesses, governments, local authorities and academic experts.
"Good governance is vital in tackling this challenge, and achieving the right balance between economic growth, environmental protection, and high quality of life for urban dwellers," Mr. Lee said. "The stakes are high and we have to get it right early. The welfare of our peoples depends on how well we harness our collective ideas."
A major problem in many Asian cities is air quality," Mr. Lee said. "The pollutants spread far and wide, borne on the winds for hundreds or even thousands of kilometers. Such trans-border challenges require us to look beyond local strategies and work closely with one another."