Of the additional world population expected between 2000 and 2015, nearly one billion will be added in urban areas compared to only about 125 million in the rural areas. Virtually all of this growth will take place in developing countries. Urbanisation if well managed, is associated with economic growth and development, providing vital opportunities for economic and social advancement; whereas if not managed properly, may result in social disintegration, more poverty among some sectors and environmental degradation.
In the context of Peninsular Malaysia, according to the National Physical Plan, the level of urbanisation has increased from 54.3% to 65A% in the inter-censual period of 1991-2000, and it is expected to increase to 75% by the year 2020. Urbanisation in Peninsular Malaysia is also marked by the increasing primacy of the three main city regions of Kuala Lumpur, George Town, and Johor Bahru. Urbanlsation can be viewed as a positive or a negative force. The difference lies in whether the urbanisation process is planned, controlled and managed in a proper manner, or otherwise.
One of the main challenges of urbanization is to make sure that our urban area is competitive enough in achieving sustainable urban development. The potential between economic growth and environmental sustainability must be realised to its fullest. Ways must be developed to achieve pro-poor economic development and also to reduce the environmental impact of economic growth and urban production, both on the towns and cities themselves, and on the global environment - as urban economic development is often influenced by changes in national and global economic- Even when economic growth occurs, it does not necessarily benefit the poor. Therefore ways must be found to develop urban economic that are diverse, resilient and also provide job opportunities that are accessible to the poor and the disadvantaged.
The urban economy is of supreme importance to the economic development of developing countries in particular. We need to encourage the town and cities to be competitive to attract investors to invest in our urban area. While at the same time, protect the very resources including the environment, that is crucial in developing the urban economy and attracting the investors in the first place. Besides that, urbanisation is also associated with social and political changes, which can undermine traditional social network and result in increased inequity and exclusion. Therefore, ways must also be found to increase equity and ensuring political and social inclusion. Often this means that ways must be found to extend infrastructure provision to keep pace with urban growth, in a way that is financially and environmentally sustainable, while ensuring access of an adequate level of services to the poor and the disadvantaged.
Currently, the capability of governance of the agencies responsible is recognised as being very crucial in achieving sustainable urbanization. Therefore ways must be found to enhance urban governance to deal with the challenges of managing the growing towns and cities. At the same time, economic, environmental and governance tensions make it difficult to realise the benefits of interdependence between rural and urban areas. In this context, ways must be found to develop and implement economic policies, resource allocation, environmental management strategies, and governance arrangements that recognise and enhance the complementary rates of urban and rural areas in sustainable development. Indeed both urban and rural areas are interdependent. Sustainable land resource planning and management is the core of physical environmental management and biodiversity conservation. Concepts of sustainable development that integrate development and natural resource management objectives should be an integral part of a country's planning process and this should be reflected in all land use policies and plans. Such a spatial planning document for Peninsular Malaysia was launched recently.
The National Physical Plan (NPP) contains 36 policies related to land use and development. The successful implementation of the NPP depends on the collaborative efforts among all relevant stakeholders including private, Government agencies, NGO and communities. This Dialogue aims at imparting a better understanding of the policy's objectives and purpose and will among others, address issues related to urbanization. It also hopes to create further awareness and opportunity for participation from civil society in its implementation. This engagement will undoubtedly contribute to better environmental cooperation and collaboration among the NGOs and Government.
The responsibility to ensure a .sustainable development does not fall on the Government entirely. It is important that we all work together, making use of opportunities provided for public participation in the process. We need the involvement of all, in particular the NGOs. The Ministry would like to view MENGO as a partner in managing our environment. We regard NGOs to be a valuable asset since they have the advantage to be in -the midst of things and the ability to be close to the people. Therefore, they have better opportunity to disseminate information and instill the feeling of responsibility to the masses. At the same time the Government would like the NGOs to be our eyes and ears so that we are informed of what is happening on the ground.
In this regards, the Government welcomes positive and constructive criticism so that we can continuously improve our programme and activities in enhancing the quality of the environment. It is therefore fitting that this Dialogue should focus an getting to know the problems or challenges faced by the relevant Government agencies, in developing urban areas and the proposed plans and programme to overcome them. So that together, the Government and the NGOs can collaborate in addressing the gaps.