KL ranks average in green city index

SINGAPORE: Ranked average overall in the recently released Asian Green City Index, Kuala Lumpur also earned an average score for its environmental governance.

The index — a study commissioned by Siemens AG and performed by the independent Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) — analysed the environmental sustainability of 22 major cities in Asia. Singapore was named the Greenest City in Asia with an overall well above average ranking.

KL was, however, praised for the constant monitoring and publication on the progress of the city’s environmental performance and for involving citizens, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders in decisions on projects with major environmental impact.

However, the index found that KL’s environmental department has a narrower remit than most other cities under the index, with climate change, sanitation and human settlements each falling outside its purview. The city lost points too for its failure to conduct a baseline environmental review of these areas, as well as energy, in the last five years.

It is noted, however, that a baseline environmental review of all the other main areas covered by the index which included water, waste, transport, land use and air quality was conducted in the last five years. The government was also noted for having relatively strong powers to implement its own environmental legislation.
KL secured above average rank in the transport and air quality categories.
The city ranked average in the land use and building category with its 44 sq m of green spaces per person which is above the index average of 39 sq m. KL secured above average rank in the transport and air quality categories; it is the city’s best performance in the index.

The study showed that its Light Rail Transit system is the fourth longest in the index and the second longest among cities in the mid-income range (GDP per capita of US$10,000-US$25,000 or RM30,400-RM76,000).

The study also found that the city’s average daily sulphur dioxide emissions are particularly low at six micrograms per cubic metre which is the second lowest level in the index and well below the average of 23 micrograms.

The biggest challenges the city faced are its energy consumption and carbon emission, and sanitation system — both ranked below average in the index — and even worse is the city’s waste and water management which was ranked well below average.

The study revealed that KL’s waste generation is 816 kg per capita per year, more than double the index average of 375 kg. Rapid population growth and relatively poor waste collection and disposal played a major factor in determining the scores for KL in the waste category.

In the water category, the city’s relatively high water consumption coupled with one of the highest leakage rates in the index, water leakages running at an estimated 37%, compared with the index average of 22%.

The study also reported that there was limited data available on areas such as the share of wastewater treated.

When it comes to energy and carbon emission, it is found that cars in the city have driven annual CO2  emissions per capita past the index average of 4.6 tonnes to an estimated 7.2 tonnes.

Lastly, only an estimated 70% of the city’s population has access to sanitation, which is the lowest proportion among other mid-income cities in the index.
The study noted that a significant number of households are still served by primary sewage treatment plants, such as septic tanks.

Prakash Chandran, president and CEO of Siemens Malaysia Sdn Bhd, believed that ranking average overall was a great start for Kuala Lumpur.

“The index is a good reflection of where KL stands in terms of its sustainability and is a stepping stone for us to move forward to improve our city’s livability factor,” Prakash said.

He felt that with the current government stimulus plans in place, in addition to the great awareness by developers and also organisations in the country, the index could not come in a timelier manner.

“There is definitely room for us to improve and Siemens is eager to be a part of the national initiatives to boost KL’s performance for the future.

Ultimately, we want to be involved in the transformation of Kuala Lumpur into one of the greenest, most livable cities in Asia,” Prakash said.

Singapore is the only city in the index to score an overall well above average rank. Singapore was lauded for its ambitious environmental targets and its efficient approach to achieve them.

Barbara Kux, member of the managing board and chief sustainability officer of Siemens AG, attributed Singapore’s success to its government’s emphasis on the importance of sustainability since its independence in 1965.

The Asian Green City Index examined the environmental performance of the Asian cities in eight categories: energy and carbon emission, land use and buildings, transport, waste, water, sanitation, air quality and environmental governance.

“The index supports cities in their efforts to expand their infrastructure on a sustainable basis. We want to enable Asia’s up and coming urban centres to achieve healthy growth rates coupled with a high quality of life,” said Kux.

Asia is the third region to be analysed for Siemens by EIU. The series began in 2009 with the European City Index which identified Copenhagen in Denmark as the greenest city. This was followed by the Latin American Green City Index in 2010 which saw Curitiba, Brazil coming out on top.

This article appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, February 18, 2011.

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