Cooperation Between Asian Cities

By Frank-Jürgen Richter

November 23, 2022

Asia’s population has increased substantially over the past decade. Fueled by economic growth and rise in household incomes and increased birth rates, the region is witnessing a massive surge in its population. It is already home to more than 4.6 billion people, comprising about three-fifths of the global population. The region’s population is 3.5x more than Africa. By 2055, Asia will be home to more than 5.3 billion people.

With about a billion people more than what are presently living on its shores, Asia will need to actively plan its housing, utilities and food systems to cope with the increase in people. More so in the urban areas considering an increase in migration of people from rural to urban areas.

The share of the world’s total population living in urban areas is expected to hit 60% in 2030. Specifically, two continents, that is, Asia and Africa will witness a rise in urban settlers. Between now and 2050, the urban population of Africa is likely to triple and that of Asia will increase by 61%. So, by 2050 most of the world’s urban population will be concentrated in Asia (52%) and Africa (21%).

How will Asian cities cope with this influx of people living within its boundaries? It will need to start investing in housing, infrastructure, transport, food and water, and waste management systems to manage this urban population.

This forms the crux of one of the themes being discussed in the upcoming Horasis Asia Meeting, being held between 20 to 21 November in Kitakyushu, Japan. The event will host 400 of the foremost business and political leaders from across Asia and the world, as they discuss ways to revitalize Asia’s economy in building a resilient post-COVID Asia.

To Sustain a City

A lot goes behind the scenes in running a city. Starting from proper transport systems that connect people to their workplaces and business areas to housing societies. Managing a city also requires providing its occupants with water and sewage systems, including electricity and waste management systems.

A perfect example here would be Singapore’s public housing program. Where other public housing programs around the world faltered, Singapore focused on four essential ingredients to make its public housing program a success:

  • These public housing estates were designed keeping in mind income levels of people, while allowing all to have access to high-quality public transport, education and hawker centers. The apartment blocks are also designed to encourage social cohesion.
  • Being constrained by limited land, Singapore city planners chose to build their housing societies, carefully designing them to ensure high-quality green open spaces between each block, while making each apartment blocks of different heights.
  • Since 1967, Singapore’s Land Acquisition Act empowered the government to acquire land at low cost for public use. Today, 90% of the land is owned by the state. Each housing estate is also run by Town Councils, that have local elected representatives and residents to run their own estates.
  • There is also both public and political support to public housing in Singapore, which has translated to housing subsidies.

Japan was also quick in dealing with its mass waste problem. The country introduced the Sound Material-Cycle Society plan with the aim to reduce consumption and recycle waste based on 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle). The government has set goals of increasing resource productivity from 37 to 49; raise recycling ration from 14 to 18; and lessen the final waste disposal amount from 2800 to 1300 by 2025.

Japan also implemented several technologies to handle different kinds of waste. Garbage collection trucks were lighter to increase load capacity, while PET bottles were collected and recycled into new PET bottles or carpets using technology.

Collaboration is Key

Development in Asia is mixed, as the region is mostly made up of developing economies. But these developing economies have a strong bid for a robust future, if they are quick to implement success stories from some of its neighbors. Safe drinking water is a growing problem in most cities around the world, and Asian cities are not an exception. As cities turn into megacities, so will the need arise of water and sewage systems. Developing countries can learn from how Singapore was able to solve its water problem through the implementation of the Four National Taps.

We also see examples of Asian cities providing subsidy for rooftop solar setups, enabling housing complexes to meet their energy demands. This will also support the government in transitioning its dependency from fossil fuels for electricity generation to use of more renewable energies as source.

Cities are now becoming a hub for innovation and sustainability. Electric vehicle recharging stations are being setup in cities, particularly in China. The country boasts of a total of 1.15 million publicly available EV charging stations. While all signs are encouraging, collaboration between the public and private sectors remain key in delivering an improved Asia.

The Horasis Asia Meeting follows on the heels of the Horasis India Meeting, held between 25-26 September 2022 in Vietnam. The India Meeting was attended by 400 leaders from both the business and government diaspora. To learn more about the event, click here.

Photo Caption: Developing Asia has much to learn from Singapore. Photo by Eugenia Clara on Unsplash.