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Southeast Asian ‘megacity’ envisioned as a ‘green’ metropolis

Southeast Asian ‘megacity’ envisioned as a ‘green’ metropolis
Monorail close-up in Medan Tuanku station in Kuala Lumpur.

Southeast Asia’s first “smart metropolis” is rising across the Strait of Johor in Malaysia.

“Malaysia's Iskandar 'smart metropolis' seeks to offer a model to countries needing to accommodate the social and economic needs of fast-rising populations and environmental challenges,” said Ellis Rubinstein, president and chief executive officer of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Since its inception in 2006 up to June this year, Iskandar has earned $31.2 billion in committed investments, of which 38 percent came from foreign sources.

The Iskandar region is the core of a major research project on the development of low-carbon scenarios for Asian regions, which is aimed at contributing to the goal of cutting by 50 percent the intensity of regional greenhouse gas emissions per unit of production by 2025 based on 2005 levels.

Covering a land area comparable to Luxembourg, Iskandar Malaysia, if implemented according to plan, has the potential to serve as a model for urban development, especially in emerging countries with rapidly growing populations.

The “green” megacity is estimated to be home to three million people by 2025.

“We envisage in Iskandar Malaysia a mixture of skyscrapers, high-rises as well as low-carbon, self-contained cities, townships, villages and neighborhoods,” said Datuk Ismail Ibrahim, chief executive of the Iskandar Regional Development Authority.

Global challenges

According to United Nations estimates, the world’s population will swell from seven billion to nine billion by 2050, with over six billion of them living in urban areas.

Rapid urban expansion has caused immense environmental impact. Currently, more than 70 percent of carbon emissions are accounted for by cities.

By 2030, expected urban carbon emissions will be about 36.5 metric tons, with business as usual terms.

Iskandar Malaysia aims to achieve a “low carbon society” status, emitting greenhouse gases “no greater in volume than levels that can be absorbed by nature.”

The plan is for renewables to be the main source of energy for the “megacity.” Use of petroleum and coal will be reduced in favor of natural gas, biomass, solar power, and gains from energy efficiency.

Construction of low-carbon buildings that use low energy and natural resources, while producing zero or less greenhouse gasses, will be encouraged.

A “smart” transportation system for public and private vehicles, including electric cars, will also be deployed and social integration will be adopted which will include green spaces and areas where people can come together and relax.

Malaysia seeks to become a high-income country in an environmentally sound way through the creation of smart urban villages, according to Datuk Seri Zakri Abdul Hamid, joint chairman of the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology, and science advisor to the prime minister.

To date, the government has drawn the support of investors such as Britain-based Pinewood Studios, which will open its largest independent integrated studio facility in Iskandar in early 2013, and Legoland, which just recently opened its first Asian theme park in the city. – Catherine Dominguez

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