Making cities greener can lead to less heat stress and more jobs, Rotterdam mayor tells Singapore webinar
SINGAPORE: Rotterdam will embark on seven major projects to recreate parts of the city, making them greener and reducing heat stress in these areas, said its mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb on Thursday (Nov 19).
The Dutch city, which is home to Europe’s largest sea port and a large number of petrochemical refineries, produces a lot of pollution, the mayor said during a webinar organised by Singapore's Centre for Liveable Cities.
“We produce a lot of pollution, we are good for about 18 per cent ... of the pollution in the country,” he said on Thursday (Nov 19).
"So it's our duty here in the city to do something about that."
READ: Tides of change: Amid rising sea levels, the Dutch float new initiatives with farms and more homes on water
The seven major projects would see the Hofplein and Westblaak neighbourhoods becoming the “green lungs” of Rotterdam, as well as the creation of a new 7ha Maashaven park.
The plan aims to reduce heat stress by up to seven degrees Celsius in some places, add more than 700 trees to the city and provide 4,400 cubic metres of water storage.
It would also see parts of the city become more pedestrianised, with about 1,700 bicycle parking spaces, and increase green roofs by about 10,000 sq m.
Also speaking at the webinar was Mr Jaya Ratnam, Singapore’s ambassador to the Netherlands as well as Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union.
He noted that Rotterdam’s plans resonated with Singapore's own ambitions of being "a city in a garden".
The ambassador described the two port cities as being "tied by the umbilical cord of trade, not just in goods and services, but ideas".
READ: Tides of change: From fighting against the seas to living with it - How the Netherlands keeps itself dry
CREATING JOBS BY GOING GREEN
Mr Aboutaleb said that empty port areas in the city could be repurposed.
"By making them green, they become attractive for investors to invest in housing construction, but also offices and hotels and all the other stuff," said the mayor.
“This plan is tackling the heat stress. It's making the city attractive by making these parks and green areas (and creating) immediate jobs,” he added.
"But in the long term when the city becomes attractive, developers will invest in the immediate facilities of these green areas, and that creates permanent jobs for the city."
Cities facing a space crunch can maximise the use of its land, such as using the space underground for garages or bicycle parking, he said.
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SINGAPORE'S ATTRACTION TO ROTTERDAM IS "OBVIOUS"
Mr Ratnam noted that numerous Singapore delegations have visited Rotterdam over the past four years, including one led by President Halimah Yacob in 2018. He said Singapore’s attraction to the Dutch city was "obvious".
“First, Rotterdam is a city that is constantly reinventing itself to adjust to changing circumstances, which has kept itself vital and relevant for centuries,” said the ambassador.
“Second, it is a multi-cultural, multi-religious, urban centre, which is a home as well as a business centre. And third, and more importantly, it works. The mayor makes sure of that.”
When asked about the importance of gathering support from residents for the city's ambitious plans, Mr Aboutaleb said that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he would go to different neighbourhoods weekly to meet with people living there.
Such consultations generated ideas that helped shape policy, he said, adding that the interactions helped him better understand the problems they faced.
“So I was ... actively seeking for citizens, seeking for criticism, because criticism is free advice,” he said. “That’s my concept for dealing with the needs of citizens.”