Planners, policymakers and urban practitioners from across the world are gathering in Kuala Lumpur for World Urban Forum 9.
Yingxin Zhou works as a mining engineer in a country with no mines. He’s from Singapore, a city-state of 5.6 million residents spread over just 277 square miles. “We don’t have gold, oil, or diamonds,” he said at this week’s World Urban Forum 9. “But we mine something equally precious: space.”
The central government of Singapore, which sets ambitious goals for economic growth, envisions the population growing to 6.9 million by 2030 in order to keep up with GDP objectives. That means fitting another 1.3 million residents on an island three-fifths the size of New York City.
Singapore has been reclaiming land from the sea since independence, but that’s proving increasingly unsustainable in an era of global climate change and sea-level rise. So where else to go?
The country has been moving as much as possible below ground in recent years to free up space, making it a global leader in the underground urbanism movement. Beyond the obvious — like a subway system — a short list of assets that government planners have moved underground in recent years include the world’s largest district cooling system, a water reclamation system that conserves every drop, and even ammunition for the Singapore Armed Forces. Oh, and the country is doubling the size of its rail network, adding another 113 miles by 2030, all underground.