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  Straits Times Forum 7 Mar 07
6.5-million population - not if but when

Letter from Ng Ya Ken

Straits Times Forum 7Mar 07
Aiming for 6.5m population - is it environmentally sustainable?
Letter from Robert Stone

The debate on whether Singapore should plan for an increase in population to 6.5m needs to centre on whether it is an environmentally sustainable course of action.

The greatest long-term problem facing all of us is the degradation of the earth's atmosphere caused by the accumulation of greenhouse gases from the actions of man.

How can Singapore increase its population to such an extent without increasing this nation's contribution to the developing global environmental crisis? The answer is it probably can, but only by focusing efforts now on how to reduce our emissions.

Former US Vice-President Al Gore's mantra that global warming is not a political issue but a moral one is correct. However, it is a problem that requires political leadership. Every one of us on the planet is responsible to a greater or lesser extent for global warming but for things to change rapidly, as they must, will require the leadership of governments everywhere to implement policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For instance, in Singapore, what is the cost to the atmosphere of the current frenzy to tear down and reconstruct perfectly sound buildings? Thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Who pays the price for this emission? Certainly not the developers. Future generations will suffer the consequences. Human existence cannot continue as it has without some urgent changes in the way we all live.

Growth of any kind is desirable only if it can be achieved while correctly managing the long-term cost to the environment.

Straits Times Forum 7 Mar 07
6.5-million population - not if but when

Letter from Ng Ya Ken

NATIONAL Development Minister Mah Bow Tan and Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng have clarified that the 6.5-million population projection was not a target but a parameter used in the planning of land use and transportation for the next 40-50 years.

Planned or otherwise, Singapore's population would reach 6.5 million one day - barring any global catastrophe. Neither is it an option not to move to 6.5 million - unless a big breakthrough in using robots to replace manpower could be achieved in the next few decades, or we decide not to take full advantage of globalisation.

Without continuous population growth, our survival would be at risk. According to the United Nations, by 2015 there would be 35 cities in Asia with more people than Singapore - assuming we have a five-million population then.

Out of these 35 cities, 13 to 15 would become mega-cities with 10 million population or more. Heading the list would be Tokyo (27 million), followed by Mumbai, Dhaka, Karachi, Jakarta, Calcutta, New Delhi, Shanghai, Manila, Beijing, Osaka and Tianjin. Other likely candidates include Hyderabad, Seoul, Bangkok and Lahore. Hong Kong's population was estimated at 8 million.

Many of these 13 to 15 mega-cities and the 20 to 22 very large cities in Asia are our competitors for foreign investment and talent. From 2000 to 2050, the UN estimated that Asia's population would increase by 44 per cent, while South-east Asia would see an increase of 53 per cent.

Our projection of 6.5 million represents an increase of over 60 per cent over our 2000 population.

The higher projected rate compared to the rest of Asia is understandable. Firstly, with a higher employment rate than most Asian countries, we need to continuously enlarge our manpower base at a higher rate to support future economic growth.

Secondly, for planning purposes, it is prudent to use a higher parameter. In time to come, when our people get more accustomed to the 6.5-million-population forecast, we need to quickly inject a stronger political vision and endorsement. This would facilitate not just physical planning, but also the political, social, economic and other facets of planning in order to lift Singapore into the upper spectrum of the First World.

Forty or 50 years is not a long way to go. Also, the issue of a large influx of immigrants is a very complicated and challenging one. The earlier we face up to the issue, the more prepared we will be.

Related articles on Singapore: general environmental issues
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