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East Asia and Pacific

Using green infrastructure to control urban floods: a win-win for cities

Zuzana Stanton-Geddes's picture
Photo: Eugene Phoen/Flickr
Photo: Eugene Phoen/Flickr

We have all come across people whose homes have beautiful and always blooming plants and flowers – people with a so-called “green thumb”.

But did you know that cities too can have a “green thumb”? Singapore is certainly one of those cities. 

Also known as the "garden city”, Singapore is set to become a "city in a garden”. The abundance of greenery is a striking feature, with parks, green roofs, street side plants, and trees on every corner.

But greenery is not there just to please the eye and create livable public areas — it also helps mitigate the risk of flooding.


Singapore, like many other densely-populated cities, is at risk of flooding. One way to tackle this is by greening public spaces and encouraging private development to follow the principles of the government’s flagship “ABC” program, which looks to make water “Active, Beautiful and Clean”. Carefully planned and implemented, investments in so-called “green infrastructure” are paying off: they make the city more resilient and more sustainable in the long-term, and also create more spaces for people to meet and interact.

Although Singapore’s dedication to greening public spaces is remarkable, it is not the only city that is getting its hands “dirty” to promote natural ecosystems. The Netherlands has been promoting green approaches in urban planning for many years now, with the innovative redesign of sewer systems, or the creation of multi-functional “water squares” which can hold storm water when rain is heavy while otherwise serving as a social space.

What Vietnam can learn from Singapore about flood risk management

Linh X. Le's picture
Overview of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Singapore. Photo: Stefan/Flickr
As Vietnamese, we look very fondly to Singapore as a model for development in the region, especially fostered by a close relationship between Vietnamese leaders and the former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew—Singapore's founder and mastermind behind all its modern-day achievements. Singapore represents modernity and civilization, notably with limited natural resources. The city-state has proved an applicable model of development for cities in Vietnam to achieve not only competitiveness but also sustainability and inclusiveness.
 
I just returned to Vietnam after attending the World Bank’s first-ever Urban Week in Singapore, a series of events that brought together city leaders from across Asia and beyond to explore innovative approaches to urban planning and management.
 
A topic that cut across all these areas is flood risk management, which was featured extensively during the launch event of the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities. I had the opportunity to learn more about the role of green mitigation infrastructure in integrated urban flood risk management, with lessons from Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka, Senegal, and the Netherlands. In these countries, green structures such as retarding basins, permeable pavement, and rainwater storage or infiltration trench have complemented conventional structural measures to reduce flood risk in a cost-effective manner.
 

2015: The 25th year of Mongolia’s partnership with the World Bank

Jim Anderson's picture
This is the final entry in our series on the 25 years since Mongolia joined the World Bank. (To read the series from the beginning, click here for the 1991 post.) Befitting the 25th year of the partnership, the year 2015 was a year focused on knowledge.

The latest estimates of poverty in Mongolia showed both progress and reason for concern. The National Statistical Office (NSO) and the World Bank have worked together on the methodology for estimating poverty since at least 2002. The estimates showed that the poverty rate declined from 27.4 percent in 2012 to 21.6 percent in 2014, continuing the trend of 2010-2012. The estimates also showed, however, that many people are near the poverty line and remain vulnerable as the economy softens. 

Building capacity for public-private partnerships

Mathieu Verougstraete's picture

Public sector resources alone cannot fulfill the development objectives of many countries. Yet the capacity of private sector in the development dynamics of countries remains hugely untapped. This is felt most acutely in the delivery of infrastructure projects.

Across emerging markets, much needed economic growth is hampered by a shortage of roads, mass rapid transit systems, telecommunications, power plants, sanitation, medical facilities, and other basic infrastructure, all of which are much needed to achieve sustainable development. However, funding the multitude of projects required in emerging markets is a huge challenge for governments that face budgetary constraints and limited borrowing capacity.

These conditions are encouraging governments to consider private investment as a promising option to circumvent their resource constraints and improve the delivery of public services – in particular, through public-private partnerships (PPPs). At the same time, many governments are also discovering that forging such partnerships is fraught with a number of difficulties.

2014: Toward more efficient financing for healthcare, agriculture, and Ulaanbaatar city

Jim Anderson's picture
Continuing our series on the 25 years since Mongolia joined the World Bank, today we look at 2014. Growth was 7.8 percent, but inflation was in double-digits and FDI continued to fall. The World Bank’s economic updates continued to warn of persistent macroeconomic imbalances, and sector studies focused on financing.

The rapid growth rates of the previous years, combined with the bent for decentralization, led to a natural desire to explore new possibilities for subnational finance. To this end, a pair of studies in 2014 aimed at preparing a debt management approach for Ulaanbaatar and a financial self-assessment for the city. The former stressed “the need to first build local institutional capacity for an effective and transparent debt management system before any borrowing is considered. … UB should use this time to put in place a debt management system so that it is prepared for borrowing once it is ready and the macroeconomic conditions improve.” The latter study examined what it would take for Ulaanbaatar to improve its credit quality and thereby prepare for an official rating from a credit rating agency. The recommendations centered on improving the city’s financial reporting system, strengthening its capital investment planning process, improving its capital asset registry, strengthening the oversight of municipal-owned enterprises and their debts, and identifying Ulaanbaatar’s contingent liabilities, both explicit and implicit.

Can Singapore inspire Laos to build water-smart cities?

Henrike Brecht's picture
Photo: Songquan Deng/Flickr
Photo: Songquan Deng/Flickr
Singapore: the beautiful city state, famed for its lush gardens, splendid food, culturally diverse communities, and the cocktail Singapore Sling. I was there last week for the World Bank’s 2016 Urban Week. The event brought together leading city officials from all over the world and staff from international organizations. It was an excellent exchange on how to tackle urban planning in a sustainable and integrated way. One lesson that emerged from the gathering is that cities that are resilient to natural disasters are also more economically competitive. Singapore is itself a prime example of a city that has understood the importance of connecting disaster risk management, urban planning, and quality living.

2013: The challenge of public finance during a mining boom

Jim Anderson's picture
Continuing our series celebrating the 25 years that Mongolia has been a member of the World Bank, today we look at 2013.  Foreign direct investment (FDI) fell below 20% of GDP, down from the heights around 50% of GDP a few years earlier. Growth, however, was still in double-digit territory and inflation was in single digits.

With the boom well underway, a report examined how to meet the challenge of scaling up infrastructure.  In a blog summarizing the study, one co-author was blunt:  “Financed by the mining boom, government spending on new infrastructure in Mongolia has increased 35-fold in the past 10 years. But you would not know this from driving the pot holed streets of Ulaanbaatar or inhaling the smog filled air of the city, particularly in the ger areas. … [The study] examines why this increased spending is not resulting in equivalent benefits for the citizens of Mongolia in terms of better roads, efficient and clean heating, and improved water and sanitation services.” The study pointed to poor project planning and implementation, and suggested ways to improve.

2012: Scaling up Mongolia

Coralie Gevers's picture
In the 25 years since Mongolia joined the World Bank, 2012 stands out for several reasons.  Starting with politics: 2012 was an electoral year that produced its fair share of surprises. The main issue at stake was for Mongolians to decide if and how they wanted to use the country's mining wealth for its development. Politicians appealed to Mongolians' love for their country, its nature, its grand history, and its fighting spirit. While Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi monopolized the headlines, the issue was much deeper: what does it mean to be Mongolian in today's globalizing world?
 
For an outside observer like me—I was in my second year as the World Bank’s Country Manager for Mongolia at the time—it was fantastic to see democracy at work: the spirit of 1990 that I had read about and seen in pictures at the National Museum was still alive! The more experienced observers were puzzled: many Mongolians told me that for the first time since 1990, they were unable to forecast the outcome of those elections. A few did predict the outcome, of course: the Democratic Party won the largest share of seats and opted to form a coalition with the MPRP and the Civil Will-Green Party.
 
At the World Bank, we also had a leadership change: Mr. Jim Yong Kim, until then President of Dartmouth College and co-founder of Partners in Health, replaced Mr. Robert Zoellick at the helm of the World Bank Group in July 2012.
 

2011: Galloping

Jim Anderson's picture
In our review of the 25 years since Mongolia joined the World Bank, 2011 stands out as a year of recovery, and that is an understatement.  By the beginning of 2011 the economy had stabilized and our economists returned to a quarterly format for publication of the economic updates.  The January Economic Update noted the strengthening of the economy:  For the year as a whole, real GDP grew 17.5 percent, the fastest rate for any country in the world. And while many mineral exporters were riding the wave of high commodity prices, few matched Mongolia’s investment boom, with FDI more than quadrupling in only a few years.  A 45 second animation showing FDI and GDP for extractives exporting countries makes clear how remarkable Mongolia’s second, synchronous, wave of FDI really was.
 
FDI and GDP growth over time
FDI and GDP growth for six extractives exporting countries from 1990 to 2013 as animated by the World Bank’s Macrostats app.

2010: Continued support in the midst of snow and smoke

Badamchimeg Dondog's picture
As we continue with our stories of 25 years in 25 days, today we bring 2010 under the spotlight. My very first thought of 2010 brings me back to sunny and hot Brisbane, Australia where I studied at the time for a graduate degree. In early January that year, after completing my first year of studies, I decided to come home for a quick visit just in time for the Lunar New Year celebrations. As I stood at the Brisbane International Airport, still in a light T-shirt, I did not realize how much I was underestimating the warnings my parents had given me, repeatedly, regarding the snow and smoke situation back home. Coming from the heat and humidity down under, when I landed in UB I experienced a 60 degree Celsius temperature difference as that winter was exceptionally cold with heavy snow and sharp temperature drops (below minus 40 degrees Celsius) in most parts of the country. And the smoke made me continuously wonder if I had forgotten so quickly how bad it was though I had left for Australia only a year earlier. Many others had similar reflections, including Mr. Arshad Sayed, the World Bank Country Manager for Mongolia at the time, who blogged about the terrible dzud we experienced that winter in rural parts of the country and the air pollution situation in the nation’s capital.


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