Green City-State: How Singapore is Leading the Way in Sustainable Urban Development

Singapore, an island state at the southern end of the Malay Peninsula with an approximate population of 6 million people, is considered one of the most eco-friendly cities in Asia (TSLG, 2022). Its path to sustainability was not an easy one, especially when it comes to the urban environment.  For many years, Singapore was polluted, lacking natural resources and proper sanitation. After its independence in 1965, few believed the developing city-island would survive on its own.Yet today, Singapore, with a total area of only 719km², approximately 46.5% of its territory hosts green spaces (MFA, 2018). How did they do it?  

An island with finite resources and a rising population, the water scarcity and limited land indicated detention in sustainable development and well-being of citizens.  Action was needed to change the precarious state in which Singapore found itself in the 60s. To revert this situation, long-term strategies were formulated. The ‘Clean and Green’ campaign was created, and nowadays, one of its purposes is to achieve all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

  1. Dealing with the water scarcity

In a short span of 50 years,  investments in research, development, and innovation allowed the urban plan to effectively solve social and environmental issues, such as gas emissions and contaminated rivers. Concerning its hydric resources, even though Singapore is still considered one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, it was recently able to sidestep this situation by implementing a wastewater recycling system. Currently, the purification and treatment resources allow nearly 40% of the water to be completely reused by its inhabitants (Green Plan, 2022).

  1. A new Circular Economy

One of the government’s initiatives is to recycle waste that can become civil construction materials, thus, reducing the amount of waste destined for landfills by 30% by 2030. 

By raising trips on mass public transport and expanding its cycling network, Singapore reduced congestion and the emission of polluting gasses, becoming one of the most carbon-efficient countries in the world (Laforgue & Lenouvel, 2000). Natural gas generates 95% of all electricity in the country, and the prediction is that solar energy deployment will be five times bigger by 2030. At present, the city’s urban setting is considered one of the most appropriate for electric cars and pedestrians, which will keep contributing to the reduction of pollution.

  1. Sustainable constructions  

High-rise buildings are frequent in places with high population densities. It is no different in Singapore, with over 9000 completed high-rises and 96 skyscrapers. To apply circular economy values in the civil construction area, Singapore is working to green at least 80% of its buildings by 2030. 

Among the most used techniques are the implantation of rooftop gardens and green walls in all buildings throughout town. One of the greener constructions in Singapore is the Changi Airport, an eight-time winner of the World’s Best Airport Title (MFA, 2018)

A thriving green city of the future

By making green development a priority, the city-state has managed to solve its economic and environmental problems, as well as its social issues. Singapore became a global example of sustainability by developing strategies and investing funds in innovative, circular solutions.

Also, encouraging its citizens to engage in sustainable practices through a biophilic design approach, the human and environmental factors were finally in balance. Thus, by keeping sustainability in mind, Singapore not only became independent but also thrived from a global perspective.

Writer: Sarah Tavares


Eric, ‘17 Most Sustainable Cities In The World’, The Sustainable Living Guide (TSLG), September 23, 2021 <> (last accessed September 15, 2022)

Kolczak, A. ‘This City Aims to Be the World’s Greenest’, National Geographic, February 28, 2017 <>  (last accessed September 15, 2022)

Lafforgue, M and Lenouvel, B. ‘Closing the urban water loop: lessons from Singapore and Windhoek’. Royal Society of Chemistry, August 27, 2015 <> (last accessed September 15, 2022)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Towards a Sustainable and Resilient Singapore, 2018.

Singapore Government Agency, ‘The Singapore Green Plan’, June 22, 2022.