China's Eco-City can be 'model for others'
By Grace Ng , The Straits Times/Asia News Network Tuesday, April 19, 2011, 9:49 pm TWN
BEIJING -- The progress made by the Sino-Singapore Eco-City project has been "truly amazing," but it can do even more to become a model that other cities in China can draw lessons from, Senior Singaporean Minister Goh Chok Tong said.
"Going forward, the whole idea of Eco-City is that it should be replicable and scalable, which means that what we do over here can be done in other parts of China," he said, during a visit to the northern coastal city of Tianjin.
So the joint venture will need to put more emphasis on its "software" — the intangible aspects, such as administrative efficiency and creating an environment in which people can live harmoniously with one another and with nature.
It should also "serve as a catalyst for more developments" in the Binhai New Area, a fast-growing industrial zone in which it sits, Goh added.
"So this project should not be seen in isolation; it should hold lessons for other cities which are trying to develop along what I call ecological lines," he said. Goh was speaking to reporters after a tour of the joint venture's 4 sq km start-up area, envisioned to eventually grow into a 30 sq km green city for 350,000 residents.
During his visit about three years ago, he recalled seeing "nothing but wasteland, salt farms, no development whatever." This time, he saw lush greenery, a wastewater lagoon being reclaimed and the construction of many buildings from a National Animation Center to public housing in full swing.
He officiated at the ground-breaking ceremony of Seasons City — a new office, retail and serviced apartment development with many eco-friendly features built by Keppel Land China.
He also witnessed the signing of six new agreements with a combined investment worth 500 million yuan (US$76.5 million) to support eco-friendly ventures in the Eco-City.
This will bring the total investment to date to 2.9 billion yuan.
"I would say the progress is very rapid, I am very satisfied," Goh said. "What is more important is whether the Chinese are satisfied," he added.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has also visited the Eco-City several times and has "taken a personal interest" in the project.
"From my understanding, he is satisfied," said Goh.
Tianjin's deputy party secretary, He Lifeng, also spoke positively of the project during his meeting with the Singapore leader.
"We can say that the Eco-City has demonstrated itself as a role model," he said.
Looking forward, Ho Tong Yen, chief executive of the Eco-City's master developer, said that next year, the first batch of residents will move into the Eco-City, and the start-up area will be completed in the following year in September.
A new economic core, called the Eco-City Center, which may become a model for future green urban business centers, will also be developed.
"In the next two years, our priority would be ... to create an eco-friendly and vibrant environment, where residents can work, live and play and enjoy a high quality of life," said Ho.
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