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FEATURE STORY

Emerging Economists Envision Green South Asian Cities of the Future

December 24, 2012

Tahseen Sayed, World Bank country manager for Nepal, highlights the need for students' innovative ideas to be heard at the ninth South Asia Economic Students Meet.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • While South Asia is among the most densely populated regions in the world, it is also one of the least urbanized.
  • Its cities across all countries increasingly face development stresses in terms of congestion, pollution, and quality-of-life issues.
  • Students shared their vision of green growth in South Asian cities of the future at a World Bank-sponsored competition.

December 24, 2012: While South Asia is among the most densely populated regions in the world, it is also one of the least urbanized. As rural-to-urban migration increases in South Asia, its cities across all countries increasingly face development stresses in terms of congestion, pollution, and quality-of-life issues.

In the spirit of the theme of Towards a Green South Asia at the ninth South Asia Economic Students’ Meet (SAESM) held in Nepal last week, as well as in preparation for the upcoming 2014 World Bank regional flagship on urbanization, the World Bank asked the emerging economists from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka to share their ideas about how they envision green growth in South Asian cities of the future through a writing competition.

Tahseen Sayed, Country Manager for Nepal, kicked off the session and shared thoughts about regional key initiatives and listened to the innovative ideas of youth. “As students of economics today and future leaders tomorrow, you will help shape policies and attitudes,” Sayed said. "This forum is part of our own learning. We’re very keen to listen to your fresh perspectives and thank you for your participation.”

Dr. Deb Kusum Das from Ramjas College at the University of Delhi created a framework for the budding economists to help organize their thoughts around sustainable urbanization. He asked the audience whether developing countries can have green growth. Is green growth necessary for development? And how do we define quality of life?

In response to these questions, the students shared fresh perspectives on what it will take to realize the vision of green South Asia cities of the future.

Open Quotes

If we all work together, we can transform our stained cities into green havens in realization of our green dreams. Close Quotes

Sunera Saba Khan
SAESM World Bank Policy Competition Winner from Bangladesh

Vaishnavi Pranatharthiharan, who had the top entry from Sri Lanka, highlighted that the urbanization strategies should be tactical, incorporating modern technologies with local community inputs and consensus.

From Pakistan, Kanza Azeemi highlighted that behavioral changes are necessary in terms of investing in energy-saving solutions at all levels such as replacing incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient ones. She noted that government has a role in terms of incentives through taxes and subsidies to encourage energy conservation and promote greater research and development.

Padam Raj Panaru from Nepal stressed that developing countries need technology transfers from more industrialized countries to promote green investment and entrepreneurship. Fostering greater interaction around green ideas will create opportunities for knowledge sharing.

From India, Shruti Lakhtakia noted that individual energy use in industrialized countries is still much greater than in South Asia countries. In terms of urban planning, she recommended that urban design and allocation of resources should be decentralized to be tailored to the needs of local communities. However, she stressed that urban planning needs to be professionalized so that policies are consistent over time and can be implemented.

Sunera Saba Khan from Bangladesh encouraged social forestry in which residents are encouraged to plant trees as well as promoting urban agriculture and help South Asia realize its green dreams.

From Bhutan, Kunzang Tenzin highlighted that South Asia has incredible potential in utilizing hydroelectric power, which is clean and renewable, especially in contrast to burning fossil fuels. Bhutan is energy-independent and has been able to effectively utilize its hydropower resources to export excess energy to neighboring countries.

Rajib Upadhya, senior communications officer for Nepal, who recently visited innovative urban initiatives in the Republic of Korea, noted the parallels between the ideas of the students and those shared by South Korean urban planning officials, and stressed that some of the ideas should be incorporated into the thinking around the 2014 flagship report on urbanization.

The winning entries will be featured on the World Bank’s End Poverty in South Asia Blog over the next few weeks.