BEIJING - With China's ambitious Belt and Road footprint covering one-third of the world's land area and two-thirds of its population, greening it will be a "major undertaking for human development", said Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli on Thursday (April 25).
But as the mammoth task of building roads, railway and ports to link Asia to the rest of the world gets underway, the right development decisions have to be made now so that finite resources are used more efficiently and countries can grow sustainably in the long run, he said.
Mr Masagos was speaking at a session on greening the Belt and Road at a three-day summit hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping showcasing his signature project.
The Singapore minister suggested approaching the endeavour through a "three-builds" concept: build sustainably, build innovatively and build partnerships.
That requires adopting a circular approach to reusing resources endlessly, tapping technology to overcome resource constraints, and pooling resources with partners.
Mr Masagos provided examples of Singapore's experience in these areas, such as developing a zero-waste masterplan that will take the island state towards a circular economy, and investing in research that has produced high-quality reclaimed water.
"For the green development of the Belt and Road Initiative to be successful, we must similarly leverage technology and innovative solutions to leapfrog old paradigms of development and reposition our countries for a more sustainable and low-carbon future," he said.
Singapore also works with partners, such as China, in creating environmentally sound solutions together. The Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city is one such example. Begun a decade ago, this inter-governmental project has been a success story, turning a barren wasteland in the north-eastern city of Tianjin into a low-carbon smart city with a population of 100,000.
A coalition of Belt and Road green development was also launched at the forum on Thursday. Mr Masagos is a co-chair of the grouping, which brings together more than 120 institutions including environmental authorities and international organisations.
The coalition was proposed by President Xi at the last Belt and Road Forum in 2017 to foster collaboration for governments, businesses and research institutes in shaping a green Silk Road.