March 11 2003
Conference Hall at KEI, Seoul
The proposed workshop focuses on examining environmental implications embedded in recent spatial expansion (or sprawling) of the Asian megacities as well as exploring the role of planning practices in addressing urban environmental problems.
Through sharing experiences and lessons of urban environmental management across Asia, the IGES-KEI workshop aims to facilitate further analysis on the changing nature of urban environmental problems and to explore possible solutions from planning practices guiding sustainable urban development in Asia.
As in past decades, several Asian megacities continue to expand their spatial boundary to suburbs, periphery, and even to peri-urban areas. For example, Bangkok, one of the Southeast Asian mega-city, along with rapid growth of urban population, the city's built-up area mushroomed from 67 square kilometers in the late 1950s to 426 square kilometers in the early 1990s (Falkus, 1993).
Beijing, one of the fastest growing Asian megacities, also becomes bigger and bigger. After the open-door policy, the Chinese capital city had to a greater extent changed not only in population, but also in physical shape. In the past four decades, Beijing has more than triples in size. More than four million people lived here in 1958; 9 millions by the early 1980s, and nearly 14 millions today. To accommodate the influx of population, the city continues to expand its geographical boundary along with the construction of transport infrastructure.
For example, the government continues to build concentric beltways that radiate from the city center. In addition to the existing Second, Third, and Fourth ring Roads, the city plans next year to complete Fifth ring road, a 59-mile asphalt ribbon. In 2005, engineers intend to complete Sixth Ring Road, 117.5 miles around. There are already plans for a Seventh Ring Road" (Langfitt, 2002). Such a "lightning-pace change" of Beijing in social, economic, and political terms is expected to continue apace at least until Olympic Games in 2008.
The driving forces underlying such land-consumptive sprawl in the Asian metropolitan areas vary from city to city. In the Seoul Metropolitan Region (SMR), the sustained primacy of socioeconomic and political activity contributes greatly such spatial expansion at metropolitan scale, while rapid economic growth based on market economy in China regards as the major underlying force. The spatial configuration of the extended periphery of BMR (Bangkok Metropolitan Region) is significantly affected by FDI and the early 1990s' property boom, where affluent residential subdivisions for urban middle-class and foreign executives and labor-intensive manufacturing industries reside.
Regardless of the nature of driving forces underlying such spatial expansions of Asian megacities, the peripheries of these metropolitan areas are being rapidly filled with newly-built residential towns, industrial estates and other facilities. Although the reckless expansion of these cities has been considered unavoidable under strong developmental pressure such as the lack of housing and other urban facilities, but it induced unintended spill-over of environmental degradation across metropolitan areas of these Asian megacities.
As a consequence, these "Asian extended metropolises" impose a greater environmental stresses on the periphery as well as core city by exposing the traffic congestion with extended commuting distances, uncontrolled expansion of urban fringes, and great loss of greenery and natural habitats. In addition, the relocated polluting industries from the inner core are widely blamed for the stationary source of air and water pollution. Furthermore, uncontrolled land development and intense pressure from square settlements on open spaces in the periphery are increasingly becoming apparent.
Facing the sprawling growth of urban and suburban areas throughout Asian megacities, the primary measures of urban environmental management are sector-specific approaches such as air pollution control, water treatment, and waste management. These conventional measures, equipped with sector-specific approach appeared, somewhat effective in short-term in mitigating urban environmental problems, but revealed their own limitations in the long-term.
In reality, several conventional sector-specific approaches are merely accommodating the minimal level of urban environmental demand due to poor financial capacity. In addition, the majority of municipal governments responding these urban environmental problems are primarily dependent on the conventional measures (control and command framework, reactive measures, and demand-following policy) due to several constraints that the Asian cities is encountering so far.
Furthermore, due to little attention on causal relation between these sector-specific approaches and spatial consequences, these measures turn out to be less effective in addressing several environmental problems. In this sense, it is increasingly becoming apparent that the remedy of these environmental problems should be explored at metropolitan scale, not single administrative or municipal boundary. Because of interdependent interaction of urban environmental load between core and periphery, it is hardly expected to effective solution in addressing these urban environmental problems without further consideration on the changing physical layout of metropolitan areas.
Some recent empirical evidences illustrate that it is almost impossible to achieve the sustained improvement of environmental status in metropolitan regions by the endeavor of single city. For instance, the water quality of running through the core of Seoul is estimated as being worse than the previous one in terms of BOD and other related water indicators, although the city government had continuously invested tremendous resources to upgrade water quality. The discharging wastewaters from upstream of the periphery of SMR, in which polluting industries and newly-built bed town are densely concentrated, are largely blamed for the main cause of the worsening water quality.
Another example from air pollution in SMR also challenges conventional wisdom on environment between core city and the periphery. Until recently, it is widely assumed that core city or a few urban centers have been in better environmental condition at the expense of the environmental degradation in their peripheries.
Owing the dominance of socioeconomic and political powers, it was often witnessed that polluting industries in the core were forced to move beyond the boundary of Seoul, while the core of SMR enjoyed to greater extent the improvement of air quality, especially the level of stationary pollutant including SO2, Yet, it is turned out to be short-sighted prospect because these relocated industries were consequently blamed for contaminating not only the fringes, but also the core of metropolitan regions. According recent survey by the ministry of environment in Korea, seventeen towns neighboring the city of Seoul recorded much higher concentration of SO2 and Ozone compared to the core of SMR and these airborne pollutants made adverse effects on air quality of the core (Korean Ministry of Environment, 2002).
The lessons so far drawn from these changing landscapes of urban environment embedded in Asian metropolitan areas legitimate urgent need of the redirection of urban environmental management in Asia in the following terms:
First, it is necessary to expand the geographical scope of urban environmental management to metropolitan scale in order to deal with the changing nature of environmental externalities due to spatial expansion of Asian megacities with regard to the effectiveness of environmental policy measures.
Second, it is necessary that municipalities are asked to find more sound approaches that not only prevent environmental distresses, but also create environmentally-sound urban structure. In other words, from the perspective of sustainable urban environmental management, the key matter should be not only accommodating the rapidly growing demand of urban environmental services, but also creating or inducing environmentally-sound urban spatial structure that restrains the potential environmental loads (for instance, air pollution due to traffic congestion) in long term perspective.
In this regard, the potentials of a wide array of planning practices (including growth management, urban Inclusive guidance, environmental zoning, and transportation demand management, etc.) would capture the intensive attention of policymakers, planners, and practitioners with regards to cost-effectiveness and relevance. In fact, as the role of planning practices in last decades, planning practices have been expanded their role from more narrow considerations of land use and zoning to broader set of concerns addressed in the emphasis on "growth management" since last decades (Beatly and Manning, 1997:18). Such an shift on the role of planning helps planning measures on examining the causes and impacts of urban growth more systematically, ultimately adopting more comprehensive approaches and strategies for managing or controlling spatial growth.
In keeping with these given background in the search for sustainable urban environment in Asia, the international workshop is being organized jointly by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) in Japan and Korea Environment Institute (KEI) in South Korea in March 11 2003.
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