Singapore, China can redefine eco-city

THE Tianjin Eco-city is fast realising its planners' vision of a thriving, sustainable town ("New leader, new chapter for eco-city"; Monday).

As impactful as this project is, further evolution of the Tianjin Eco-city will make it truly revolutionary, with far-reaching consequences for sustainable development and the enhancement of quality of life for both people and for nature.

The project's planners understand that meaningful urban living goes beyond housing and economic development.

Urban development is synergistic with environmental sustainability, cultural and artistic dynamism, recreational opportunities, and green, nature-rich surroundings. 

Interestingly, one of the key performance indicators (KPIs) for the eco-city's remit for a good natural environment is no net loss of natural wetlands. This is a bold and inspired quantitative KPI.

The eco-city, located on the shores of the Bohai Sea, occupies part of a once-vast coastal wetland ecosystem.

Fittingly, not only is Singapore good at creating and maintaining clean, resource-efficient urban environments, we are also good at creating and rehabilitating wetland habitats for recreation and for nature conservation - Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is a stunning example. 

The Tianjin Eco-city gives Singapore opportunities to showcase its holistic approach to development, and it cannot come at a more critical time.

The Yellow Sea and Bohai Sea region is one of the world's most important refuelling stops for migratory shorebirds on their way to Arctic breeding grounds, including birds that overwinter in Singapore. Recent decades have seen the numbers of shorebird species in Asia and Australasia plummet; some face extinction.

Rapid development in Asia has led to widescale reclamation of coastal areas, including the loss of wetland habitat in the ecologically critical Yellow Sea region.

Shawn Lum

President

Nature Society (Singapore)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2015, with the headline 'Singapore, China can redefine eco-city'. Print Edition | Subscribe