In Malaysia, more than 74 per cent of the population lives in metropolitan regions, which also host more than 90 per cent of the nation’s economic activity.
As indicated by the Urban Sustainability Index produced by MURNInets in 2021, out of the 127 Malaysian cities analysed, around two-thirds (68 per cent) are sustainable, with the remaining cities (33 per cent) being moderately sustainable.
However, numerous issues related to climate change are threatening Malaysia’s cities’ capacity to serve as viable pillars of sustainable development.
A weak public transit infrastructure, dependency on fossil fuels and coal, a strong desire for mobility, and fast urbanisation and industrialization (7 per cent yearly) have all contributed to the rapid rise in automobile ownership in cities, which has exceeded population growth. All these elements have influenced the city’s rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Kieran Li Nair, a researcher at Research for Social Advancement (REFSA), a climate-resilient Malaysia can only be attained by creating resilient cities, or towns and cities that can absorb, recover from, and prepare for shocks connected to the climate while simultaneously fostering sustainable development.
The Local Government Development Minister, Nga Kor Ming, said a sustainable city is one that can evolve with the times and eventually overcome negative social, environmental, and financial effects.
Improvements must be made to public transit, air quality, and the percentage of publicly accessible open space in metropolitan areas in order for Malaysia to meet the necessary SDG objectives.
For instance, the task force ought to be created by the federal and state governments to look into the adoption of "green" travel choices, the upgrading of public transportation, and improving the accessibility of public transit for urban poor people.
By 2030, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim wants to turn the federal territories into smart cities. This is consistent with the Madani Malaysia notion, which also stressed the importance of sustainability through the concepts of green cities and smart cities.
The growing usage of mobile devices and high-speed internet, as well as the incorporation of cutting-edge technology into several industries, are projected to be major drivers of the development of smart cities, said Cyberview’s acting managing director, Dr Mohd Hafiz Ibrahim.
It is important to promote and broaden access to renewable energy sources like solar for households and city planners. Besides, updating current infrastructure in a practical manner is a part of a climate adaptation strategy to make sure it can withstand climate change.
In this case, the Malaysia International Centre for Sustainable Cities (MyICSC) programme encourages smart city players to create sustainable cities and communities in accordance with SDG 11 by acting as a platform for bringing together, disseminating, exchanging, aligning, and syncing numerous stakeholders in the field of sustainable cities.
In addition, Urbanice Malaysia promotes the localisation of SDGs in the creation of liveable cities and climate-responsive urban development with the goal of creating a sustainable urban country.
In carrying out this objective, Urbanice Malaysia concentrates on localising and mainstreaming the sustainable urban agenda, igniting urban solutions, fostering community resilience, and promoting climate actions for the sustainability of communities and cities.
Working collaboratively to create sustainable cities for future generations is crucial for all parties involved, whether they are in government or on the street. Community participation and education must be ongoing to preserve a sustainable culture and guarantee sustained development towards a sustainable and liveable city.
Further work must be put forth, especially in the areas of protecting the environment, getting rid of poverty, increasing creativity and technology, and encouraging good health and happiness, to enable all cities in Malaysia to be sustainable.
Sustainable cities work towards achieving fair economic expansion, societal progress, and ecological accountability in order to safeguard the city’s long-term survival and enhance both urban and rural community wellbeing. This is also in line with the achievement of SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities.
Prof Dr Suhaiza Hanim Mohamad Zailani is Director, Ungku Aziz Centre for Development Studies, Universiti Malaya.