Singapore – Sustainability in Action?

„More like a city within gardens than gardens within a city” is probably how you can best describe the impression you get when you see Singapore for the first time. Right after we landed in Changi airport, we could already see all the trees and greenery making the city such a unique place. Walking around the city, it felt like we had entered an unreal world. A world where humans and nature work together and succeed in forming a sustainable way of living.

But is Singapore really that sustainable?
Singapore was ranked 2nd in Arcadis’ ranking of the 100 most sustainable cities in the world.

How did it achieve to secure itself such a high position in the ranking?

To answer this question, we have to go back in history and understand how Singapore became so green. In 1963 the Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew shared his vision for a ‘garden city’. The idea was “to transform Singapore into a city with abundant lush greenery and a clean environment in order to make life more pleasant for the people as well as suggesting litter-free streets”.

By the end of 1970, fifty-five thousand trees had been planted. Today that number has increased to over 2 million. 30% of the urban areas are covered by greenery.

However, it is not only the trees and small plantings covering up walls that make the city sustainable. It is also the use of technology to be increasingly self-efficient that sets Singapore apart from other cities. Urban farming within Singapore has become more popular and high-tech over the past years.

Furthermore, Singapore uses an urban drainage solution which covers two-thirds of Singapore’s land area. Stormwater is collected through a network of drains, canals, rivers and stormwater collection ponds and reused as drinking water. Singapore is therefore one of the few countries who use urban stormwater as their water supply.

Singapore sets a very good example for other big cities by showing that it is possible to combine nature and urbanization and even profit from it as the city’s beauty attracts a lot of tourists and therefore drives the economy. It is impressive how Singapore manages to have a population of 5.5 million living in an area of just 720km² and still makes space for nature to unfold. It definitely earned itself the title of the second most sustainable city in the world.

It is important to keep in mind that every city is different and needs its own kind of adaptation. However, every city should work towards being more sustainable and Singapore should be an inspiration for them of what can be done.

Leonie Friedrich

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