Sunday, January 04, 2009

Singapore's last village to be demolished

Raising the Dead in Crowded Singapore, Los Angeles Times; Urban Singapore Prepares to Gobble Up Its Last Village, The New York Times; Singapore should not be as crowded as Hong Kong: Lee, Reuters

Singapore is just one village away from complete urbanization. The tiny island nation has slated its very last village, Kampong Buangkok, for demolition and redevelopment. Kampong Buangkok is the only remaining trace of Singapore’s rural beginnings. It has 28 one-story homes and about three football fields worth of land covered with tropical trees, fruits and flowers and a tiny stream. The small village stands in stark contrast to the massive apartment buildings surrounding it on all sides and the highway less than 200 feet away.  According to Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, the village’s land will be used to provide future housing, schools and other neighborhood facilities. The village’s inhabitants will be relocated into government housing, like 90 percent of Singapore’s population.

 The village’s redevelopment is part of a larger effort by the Singaporean government to make room for Singapore’s rapidly growing population on the nation’s less than 300 square miles of land. According to a U.N. study in 2003, Singapore is the third most densely populated nation in the world, behind Hong Kong and Macau. Its population has grown from 1.6 million in the 1960’s to 4.8 million today and is projected to grow by 40 percent more by 2050, to 6.5 million.  With so many people to provide for, the government is working hard to create more space on the tiny island. It’s tearing down older neighborhoods to rebuild them in more space-efficient ways, razing landmarks, emptying cemeteries (and cremating or relocating the bodies in order to make use of the land) and making itself larger by dumping landfill into the sea, growing its original 224 square miles to 299 square miles.

(1) What are the pros and cons of being a purely urban nation?

(2) What other steps might Singapore take to provide for its rapidly growing population?

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