Development & Nature Can Mix: Singapore Ambassador-At-Large Prof. Tommy Koh
We can achieve development in harmony with nature, says Prof. Tommy Koh in an interview with the Asian Development Bank on challenges for the Asian region in the 21st century.
AsianScientist (Mar. 1, 2012) – “I think we have lost the balance between development on the one side and environment on the other,” said Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador-at-Large, Tommy Koh, in an interview yesterday with the Asian Development Bank on challenges for the Asian region in the 21st century.
The ambassador expressed concern over the state of the environment in Asia, and highlighted the positive example set by Japan and Korea in areas of sustainable development.
“Again we are not doing so well, with few exceptions and Japan and Korea being two of them, in our quest for growth for development. The result is clear to all. Air pollution is pervasive in Asia, in most countries the water is not potable, the rivers are polluted, the seas are not swimmable, the land is degraded, food is contaminated,” the Ambassador said.
But it is not all doom and gloom, he said, as it is possible to achieve development in harmony with nature.
“The situation in most Asian countries is bad. But Japan and Korea have shown us the way, that you can achieve development in harmony with nature,” he said.
“We don’t have to look to the West, we can look to ourselves. Look at the Asian family, there are Asian best practices which the rest of Asia can emulate,” he added.
Linking sustainable development with good governance, Ambassador Koh stressed the need to reduce corruption for some of these goals to be achieved.
“I think the situation in Asia today is not good, with very few exceptions. Corruption is very high in most Asian countries. So we really need to redouble our efforts in the coming years, to strengthen the rule of law and weaken the rule of man,” he said.
Sustainable development must also be treated as a national priority across Asia, he said.
“(We need) to mobilize all the forces within our society: political, business, civil society, in order to rid ourselves of what I call this ‘cancer’ eating at the heart of Asia,” he said.
Finally, he emphasized that Asia could be a “role model” for itself, by replicating the successes of countries that have scored well on the non-corruption index, namely Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan.
“So if you ask me, is the problem insuperable, I say no. If we have the political will, can Asia embrace sustainability, I say yes. Am I confident that Asia will do so? I confess I don’t know,” he mused.
Source: Asian Development Bank.
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