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Water and the city: the Singapore story

Figure 1: View of the river in downtown Singapore.
Source: Photo by William Cho, via Wikimedia Commons

Author(s): Lau Ying Shang, Mercy Wong

Abstract / Introduction (download full article at the bottom)

Water: it is fundamental for life, integral to human culture, necessary for industrial activities, and helpful for recreation. While human functioning is reliant on water, water is also feared, as it can be a carrier of disease and a force of destruction. The reverence for water is no less in cities – places of high populations and dense buildings – where municipal managers need to be on their toes to manage water for the city’s functioning, but not be overwhelmed by water. Singapore is one example of a city that has been successful in managing its water resource through careful planning and meticulous execution. This city-state in the equatorial region of Asia provides exciting prospects for its 5.4 million residents who hail from four main ethnic groups. About half of the resident non-student population have at least postsecondary education qualifications, while the per capita GDP is $68,5002. Surprisingly, the city-state is supported by only an area of about 716 square kilometers located in the equatorial region of Asia. While the monsoons bring intense, heavy rains, Singapore’s small land area means it has a limited water catchment area. Despite these challenges, Singapore has evolved from being a ‘basket case of urbanisation’ in the 1950s and 60s, to a first-world city in about half a century. Its success would not have been possible without good governance and management of water, an essential foundation for human development.

Publication: ISOCARP Review 10, pp. 242-259
Year: 2014
Editors: Shi Nan, Jim Reilly, Fran Klass
Coordinator: Lucian Perici
Graphic Designer: Ricardo Moura

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