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FOTP 1 Financing Public Private Partnership South Asia Southeast Asia Urban Solutions

Finger on the Pulse: The Case for Critical Infrastructure and Increasing Urban Migration Across Asia

Finger on the Pulse is a new content series from Infrastructure Asia that covers key developments and trends across Asia's infrastructure landscape, providing you with key insights from the inside.

While rapid urbanisation ushers in an era of global economic prosperity, pressure on critical infrastructure continues to grow as well. This challenge is especially pressing in Asia. Today, over 60% of the region’s population live in urban areas and this is projected to increase in the future. Undoubtedly, urbanisation engenders economic growth and an enhanced quality of life. Yet, for cities to be truly sustainable, there is an urgent imperative to scale up critical infrastructure to accommodate rising populations and growing demands of the urban environment.

As we observe World Population Day this week, we dive deeper into the complexities of urbanisation and explore the opportunities for Asia to address the challenges at hand.

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Exploring diversified funding sources for public transportation

As urban migration continues, the influx of people will continue to strain public transportation networks, cause physical stress on roads, and put pressure on traffic management systems. This can lead to longer commuting times, heightened congestion, increased air pollution, and reduced accessibility to essential services.

While Asian cities recognise the importance of investing in infrastructure, government budgets often fall short of meeting the required funding. For instance, it has been estimated that an annual investment of USD 600 billion is necessary to finance Asia’s transport infrastructure from 2016 to 2030. Relying solely on the public sector to cover 80% of these costs is not a viable solution. Instead, there is a pressing need for capacity building and diversified funding sources to effectively bridge this gap.

Through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) and innovative financing mechanisms such as asset recycling, cities can better address the mounting pressure on public transportation and improve mobility for their residents. This approach will facilitate stronger collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors, leveraging their respective strengths to ensure sustainable and efficient infrastructure development. A good example would be ADB’s $1 billion loan to help establish a city-wide transport project in the Philippines to deploy electric bus fleets at scale.

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Forging closer collaboration for water and sanitation services

Another critical aspect that demands attention is water and sanitation services. Inadequate infrastructure will not only lead to water scarcity, but can also result in subpar sanitation and heightened health risks for urban populations. Investing in critical infrastructure is crucial to ensure resilience in the face of future challenges. Tuas Nexus in Singapore serves as a model for sustainable development, to meet the nation’s long-term waste management and used water treatment needs. As the world’s first integrated water and waste treatment facility, Tuas Nexus will harness the synergies of two mega facilities, enabling it to maximise energy usage and optimise space.

Close collaboration and partnerships between organisations and regional governments play a pivotal role in driving impactful water and sanitation projects across the region. By leveraging Singapore’s infrastructure expertise and financial ecosystem, partnerships can be strengthened to support these initiatives. This knowledge sharing will support countries in Asia to enhance their water and sanitation systems,  ensuring access to clean water and proper sanitation for their urban residents while promoting sustainable practices.

Fostering closer collaboration between regional water utilities and solution providers is an important step towards improving operation and service delivery. For example, ABB is working closely with the Utility Saigon Water Supply Corporation to deploy digital solutions for rehabilitating Ho Chi Minh City’s water distribution network. This partnership has yielded remarkable results, bolstering the city’s water supply reliability and saving 122MLD (million litres per day) of water. In addition, by 2025, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) strives to treat up to 80% of wastewater. Infrastructure Asia organised a joint workshop for HCMC’s public and private sector (e.g. HCMC Department of Construction, HCMC Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DONRE), SAWACO) to exchange views on best practices for wastewater management, showcase wastewater capabilities and hear about how challenging regional projects were made possible through partnerships from Singapore-based companies such as Binnies, SUEZ, and Memiontec.

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Digitalising solid waste management

With more people comes more waste. Poor waste management practices can result in improper waste disposal, uncontrolled dumping, and environmental pollution. Adequate infrastructure plays a pivotal role in addressing the growing volume of urban waste.

In particular, Southeast Asia is witnessing a high demand for waste management solutions to meet the needs of its rapidly growing urban population. In January 2021, Singapore waste management company 800 Super, in collaboration with its Cambodian joint venture partner GAEA Waste Management, secured a 10-year contract for waste collection and transportation in one of the three zones of Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia with facilitation from Infrastructure Asia along with Enterprise Singapore. By bringing together companies of complementary expertise and resources, this helps to ensure the optimal fit for various infrastructure initiatives. Through this project, 800 Super will utilise its advanced technology, including real-time monitoring through RFID tags on bin trucks, to improve productivity and efficiency. This technology will be incorporated throughout the contract tenure to support the long-term needs of Phnom Penh’s burgeoning urban centres. By harnessing the expertise of companies like 800 Super, cities can more effectively implement sustainable waste management practices, paving the way for cleaner, greener, and more liveable urban environments.

Collaborative efforts will be the key to address these regional challenges. By fostering partnerships, we can discover sustainable solutions and tackle complex urban issues. Infrastructure Asia plays a vital role as a project facilitation office, empowering collaborations that drive economic growth and ensure long-term environmental stewardship. Leveraging our expertise and extensive network, we can forge meaningful partnerships that build resilient cities for a higher quality of life, and a brighter future for all.

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