Sunday, October 26, 2008

S'pore lauded as slum-free city

Oct 25, 2008

By Shobana Kesava

SINGAPORE is the only city in the world without slums, a new report by the United Nations Habitat has found.

The director of UN Habitat's monitoring and research division said the achievement was one that should be studied and, if possible, replicated in other cities.

'There is about 6 per cent slums in more developed countries, so to have zero incidence is an achievement worth celebrating,' said Professor Banji Oyeyinka.

The world organisation released its findings yesterday in cities, including Singapore, to coincide with the 63rd anniversary of the UN.

The report studied factors that contributed to harmonious urbanisation in 245 cities which provided data to UN Habitat.

In Asia, where half the population lives in cities, a third live in slums, the bi-annual State of the World's Cities 2008/2009 report said.

These were defined as areas where there was overcrowding, a lack of safe drinking water, sanitation, durable housing materials and rights over tenure.

Prof Banji said Singapore showed how long-term planning worked to achieve success in slum elimination.

A quarter of Singapore's population lived as squatters or in slums in 1959, with as many as 200 people living in a shophouse before the Government stepped in to build public housing. Over 44,000 flats were ready in 1964.

Asked how much time was necessary for a concerted effort to eliminate slums, Prof Banji said it would depend: 'Just for provision of clean water throughout a city, it would need 10 years of consistently and effectively applied policies.'

For the world to understand the best methods to eliminate such pools of disease and poverty, he invited researchers studying cities to collaborate with UN Habitat. He also invited non-government organisations and universities to send their data.

The Centre for Liveable Cities, Singapore, set up by the National Development Ministry and Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources in June to enhance Singapore's expertise in urban development, is interested in collaboration.

Its director Andrew Tan said: 'We want to learn the best practices of other cities, like Japan's responsible communities, which take care of the cleanliness of their own environment.'

About 50 researchers, analysts and policymakers attended the launch.

The UN Habitat's next report will be released in 2010.

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