Keppel working on project to explore floating city in Singapore

Panellists at a discussion cited floating cities as an example of how cities can prepare for disruptions. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A floating city in Singapore may well become a reality, with Keppel Corp exploring such nearshore urban developments.

Keppel chief executive officer and executive director Loh Chin Hua disclosed this at the World Cities Summit on Tuesday (June 22), during a panel discussion on how cities can take the lead in responding to climate, social and technological change.

Speaking about how the private sector can work with governments to address issues like climate change, Mr Loh said: "We have the technology and capabilities to build floating cities, which can address both land scarcity as well as the threat of rising sea levels in coastal areas. We are currently exploring how such nearshore developments can be built in Singapore."

He did not give any details.

Floating cities were among the examples cited by panellists on how cities can build with an eye on the future and prepare for disruptions from pandemics and climate change.

Already, cities around the world have been building in anticipation of future problems, said the panellists at the discussion, which was moderated by Ambassador-at-Large Chan Heng Chee.

In China, for instance, the government has built a network of sponge cities to tackle urban flooding and water scarcity issues that may result from climate change, said Mr Yang Baojin, chief economist of the country's Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.

In the Spanish city of Bilbao, a project is under way to fit buildings with technology that will allow them to generate energy and share unused energy with neighbouring buildings which may need it, said Mr Juan Mari Aburto, mayor of the city.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has hit cities hard and changed their look, it has also provided a chance for them to reinvent themselves, said Mr Soichiro Takashima, mayor of Fukuoka city in Japan, and Mr Joachim von Amsberg, vice-president of policy and strategy at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Mr Takashima said adaptations to prepare cities for future pandemics can become a "new selling point" for them. These include the infectious diseases city plan put in place in Fukuoka, on the northern shore of Japan's Kyushu island.

The plan lays out how buildings can revamp ventilation systems and use touchless technology so that people can enter and leave a building and use restrooms without having to touch any fittings, he said.

In West Java, Indonesia, the pandemic has been a "game changer", as it has forced people to do things differently, said Mr Mochamad Ridwan Kamil, governor of the province.

He cited how fish farmers, who used to have to manually transport fish food daily, are now able to feed their fish remotely, with containers of food hooked to sensors, linked to the Internet and controlled through a mobile phone.

He added that cities should harness the momentum created by the pandemic.

Mr Chintan Raveshia of planning, design and engineering consultancy Arup said city planners and designers should remember to make cities feel like home even as they plan for them to be "fit for many futures".

Building social resilience and empowering people is what will make cities more resilient and ready to handle future disruptions, he added.

Mr Raveshia, who is Arup's leader of cities in South-east Asia, believes that ensuring equity, such as equal access to housing, food and other resources, is key.

Another critical factor is how cities can ameliorate the injustice and social unrest sometimes caused by migration, through better city design, he added.

"It's about bringing people together on the journey... and that is possible only when there is enough trust in the system," he said.

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