Lecture 9: Sustainable Urban Development in Asian Cities: Environmental Perspectives

Professor Young Woo Park
Prepared by Long Pan, Hokkaido University

At the beginning of the lecture, Prof. Park provided an overview of the current situation of sustainable development. Because of population growth, depletion of natural resources and environmental degradation, sustainable development becomes the necessary solution. Meanwhile, cities as a driver of global unsustainable resource use show the greatest potential for sustainability-oriented innovations.

He then introduced five features of Asia’s urban environmental challenges:

  • Economic development and environmental issues: Three major issues related to environmental risks: poverty, industrial production modes and increasing consumption.
  • Globalization drives urban development: Much of the growth in the region has been driven by direct investment from foreign (FDI) and multinational corporations.
  • Mega-demand for land and natural resources: Enormous demand for natural resources and land for industrial, commercial and residential purposes, and energy production infrastructure.
  • In most of the selected Asian cities, ecological footprints, as an average measure of the land required to sustain one individual, is higher than habitable land to support the needs of the human race (1.7 hectares/head).
  • High vulnerability to climate change.

Towards improved environmental planning and management in Asian cities, two points were mentioned:

  • Asian cities are facing serious environmental problems, which if not addressed, will have serious local, regional and worldwide consequences.
  • If urban development in the Asia-Pacific region is to become more sustainable, governments and communities must give priority to actions in three major areas:

– Better urban planning and management of development;
– Improved environmental management;
– Better environmental governance and compliance 

Lastly, Prof. Park highlighted the benefits of green cities from economic and social aspects as follows:

  • Agglomeration effects
  • Lower infrastructure costs
  • Reduce congestion
  • Create green jobs