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Case Study House 21 Plans To Prosper

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by Devon Ronald Dublin, Emmanuel P. Crucio, Richard Phillips, Suruchi Singh and Jaranporn Lertsahakal


Urbanization is increasing and over the next 30 years, two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in urban areas. One of the key drivers for urbanization is economic, as people move to cities for work. This has led to a rapid geographical expansion of urban settlements. For example by 2035 all developing regions, most notably Asia and Africa, will be more urban than rural (State of the world cities, 2007).

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992 brought to fore the importance for sustainable development indicators (SDIs) as a tool to assess progress towards sustainability. Agenda 21, one of the outcomes of this conference, asks governments to integrate sustainable development into three national strategies (plans, policies and procedures) and highlights the importance of involving non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the public in the process. It provides a framework to encourage citizens to create a more sustainable society. Agenda 21 addresses the development of societies and economies by focusing on the conservation and preservation of our environments and natural resources and eradicating poverty. This aspiration is in line with government policies of implementing sustainable development strategies as stipulated in the Habitat Agenda of The Rio Declaration. Nations that have pledged to take part in Agenda 21 are monitored by the Commission on Sustainable Development and are encouraged to implement Agenda 21 at regional and local levels. Malaysia, along with 177 countries attended the UNCED, also known as Rio 92 and adopted the Rio Declaration that gave birth to the Agenda 21, also supporting the strengthening of the UN Human Settlements Programme.

The 2014 ProSPER.Net Leadership Programme brought together participants from different countries and backgrounds to discuss sustainability issues and how to implement programmes to support sustainable practices. The programme included visiting development initiatives in urban localities of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya. Participants experienced Malaysia’s attempts to address challenges related to urban sustainability. In this regard, participants identified how Malaysian authorities addressed the need to promote cities that are environmentally sustainable, socially inclusive, economically productive and resilient. The ministry of housing and local government is the lead agency coordinating activities related to human settlements. The ministry also works with other government agencies, the private sector and NGOs. Programmes for human settlements are meant to reflect the needs of the local community, taking into account all aspects of fundamental freedoms, including the right to development, with full respect for various religious and ethical values, cultural backgrounds, philosophical convictions of individuals, and their respective communities.

Current state

Several official documents inform Malaysia’s social, political and economic development. Written in 1991, Wawasan or Vision 2020, for example, envisions Malaysia as a fully developed country economically, socially, politically and spiritually by 2020. A key part of Vision 2020 is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s premier city that would play an active role. The visions and goals for Kuala Lumpur have been formulated with the aim of creating a sustainable city. The city council has attempted to balance between the competing goals of physical, social and environmental development.

The Tenth Malaysian plan (2011-2015) addresses four points:

  • Improving the standard and sustainability of quality of life; ensuring effective sourcing and delivery of energy and developing a climate resilient growth strategy.
  • Improving quality of life for Malaysians through better access to healthcare, public transport, electricity and water. Initiatives should be designed to create a caring society and promote community well being. Economic development will also be based on sustainability principles to ensure that the environment and natural resources are preserved so that growth will not come to a cost to future generation.
  • To ensure sustainable development with green growth, the government has focused on land use, climate change and green technology. Land use regulation is governed by the National Physical Plan (NPP) and National Urbanization Policy (NUP). The National Policy on Climate Change was conceptualized to mainstream climate change through resource management and environmental conservation, leading to the strengthening of economic competitiveness and improved quality of life. Also road maps are framed for the reduction of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions.
  • To promote green technology through initiatives such as the National Green Technology policy. Specific action areas are identified under ‘Strategic thrusts’ to provide a conducive environment for green technology development and to promote public awareness. Various tools were created to measure and evaluate the sustainability of cities and their associated areas through the usage of urban indicators.

Other initiatives include:

  1. Public participation for better planning in the process of preparing development plans.
  2. Inclusion of strategic environmental assessment (SEA), social impact assessment and sustainability assessment in sustainability studies.
  3. Releasing guidelines for activities in land development, environment sensitive areas, and green neighborhoods.

Reflections from University of Malaya (UM) and Heriot-Watt Malaysia Campus Visits

Since urban sustainability has two contexts i.e. local and global, the point of convergence of these challenges is the reduction of urban footprints – namely the extended footprint of the material resources that flow into the city and of the spaces occupied by the city, and the outflow footprint, the pollution and other emanations from the city. A vital requirement to address this challenge is the leadership and active collaboration of various stakeholders. To highlight examples of leadership from the government and university sectors around the issue of sustainability some reflections about two site visits are presented below.

University of Malaya

A day was spent at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur Campus and ProSPER.Net participants listened to several lectures about sustainable urban development given by academics and government officials. Participants also saw practical applications of recycling and sustainability. This visit demonstrated two ways in which UM is working towards the Malaysia Vision 2020 plan.

First, courses such as the Master of Real Estate and the Master of Architecture offer students the opportunity to learn how to design buildings that are energy efficient, use sustainable materials and have minimal environmental impact. These courses are important to produce professionals that can help meet the needs of the new urban centres that are being constructed. Students from the latter programme, based in the Faculty of Built Environment, have completed projects on green technology, utilizing materials to their maximum use, promoting aesthetics and compatibility with the surroundings. ProSPER.Net participants saw students present their ideas for the Sustainable Building Design assessment. All of the projects were impressive and showed the innovative designs used to address the environmental challenges facing urban localities.

Secondly, the UM campus includes the Rimba Ilmu Botanic Gardens which is on 80 hectares of green landscape and contains over 1,600 species of tropical plants. The garden is a teaching facility and also demonstrates how development can be conducted alongside the preservation of greenery in its surroundings. The facility hosts an Environmental Education Programme (EEP) that contributes to the overall sustainability endeavors of the University. This project was initiated through the voluntary efforts of faculty members. However, the unit responsible received significant support in terms of funding and policy enforcement mechanisms.

Promoting the value of the environment to students and staff is also manifested through several demonstration projects including:

  • The Zero Waste Campaign promotes the collection and recycling of materials. For example, compost is produced using food waste generated from the UM canteens and cafes. This campaign was born out of a concern for the solid waste management problems in Malaysia. The campaign has gone beyond the borders of the university, where workshops are conducted, in collaboration with both private and governmental bodies, to replicate the developed methods.
  • UM Crops Urban Farm, where small spaces around the campus are converted into little farms. Food waste is also used as a source of fertilization in these farms. This contributes in a large way by serving as a demonstratio
    n of innovative ideas for low-cost urban agriculture which gravitates towards the desire by municipal governments to encourage such agricultural activities.
  • The Stream of life, which serves as a habitat for frogs, ducks and other birds and insects is also maintained by another group of students. It was inspired by the rehabilitation of waterways in Japan and Wales, showing how initiatives from other locations can be adapted to local conditions.
  • Project Revival, which generated lots of machinery, personnel and resources to restore the Varsity Lake and saw the involvement of various stakeholders. This lake serves as a source of relaxation, recreation and aesthetics not just for the university, but is also open to the public. This initiative is being replicated in various parts of Malaysia where citizens are encouraged to maintain such areas in a healthy manner through the mechanism of citizen science as a tool.

These programmes could be replicated to other urban localities and are essential for healthy urban life and ecosystems. Therefore, through engagements between the university and citizens of Malaysia, these initiatives can actually become the norm in the new urban centres.

Heriot-Watt University Malaysia Campus

Heriot-Watt University’s Malaysia Campus is one of the most modern in Malaysia. ProSPER.Net participants were fortunate to be shown around the new building, even before the first students had arrived. The Campus is located close to the Putrajaya marina and its modern leisure and sports facilities. The setting is picturesque and beautiful, forming a fantastic green area of Putrajaya Lake’s ‘green continuum’. The new building blends into the surrounding areas and complements the neighboring buildings, but retains a distinctive identity. This is important since this university is considered the leader in Built Environment. The edifices are all eco-friendly and sustainably designed, and are characterized by high environmental standards and minimal energy use.

As one can see, this institution leads by example, presenting buildings that can serve as a model for the urbanization drive in Malaysia. Modern construction materials offer the opportunity to include eco-friendly and energy efficient technologies. The new urbanization drive, which is a part of the Malaysia Vision 2020 plan, could therefore see the development of “green” urban districts, which themselves can serve as positive examples to other countries in the region who face similar environmental challenges.

Concluding Remarks

This experience has demonstrated how the educational institutions can act as leaders by focusing their resources and expertise towards meeting current challenges. Sustainable development requires adaptation, innovation and flexibility, in the face of a rapidly changing world. The Malaysia experience can certainly serve as a good model for other aspiring nations and remind us of the inevitable need for a vibrant educational sector that works collaboratively with the government, other stakeholders and the wider community.


1. residue of the elders--those still surviving from the time when they were carried to Babylon with Jeconiah; the other elders of the captives had died by either a natural or a violent death.

2. queen--Nehushta, the queen mother, daughter of Elnathan ( 2 Kings 24:82 Kings 24:15 ). (Elnathan, her father, is perhaps the same as the one mentioned in Jeremiah 26:22 ). She reigned jointly with her son.
princes--All the men of authority were taken away lest they should organize a rebellion. Jeremiah wrote his letter while the calamity was still recent, to console the captives under it.

3. Zedekiah . . . sent unto Babylon--In Jeremiah 51:59 , Zedekiah himself goes to Babylon; here he sends ambassadors. Whatever was the object of the embassy, it shows that Zedekiah only reigned at the pleasure of the king of Babylon, who might have restored Jeconiah, had he pleased. Hence, Zedekiah permitted Jeremiah's letter to be sent, not only as being led by Hananiah's death to attach greater credit to the prophet's words, but also as the letter accorded with his own wish that the Jews should remain in Chaldea till Jeconiah's death.
Hilkiah--the high priest who found the book of the law in the house of the Lord, and showed it to "Shaphan" the scribe (the same Shaphan probably as here), who showed it to King Josiah ( 2 Kings 22:8 , &c.). The sons of Hilkiah and Shaphan inherited from their fathers some respect for sacred things. So in Jeremiah 36:25 , "Gemariah" interceded with King Jehoiakim that the prophet's roll should not be burned.

5. Build . . . houses--In opposition to the false prophets' suggestions, who told the captives that their captivity would soon cease, Jeremiah tells them that it will be of long duration, and that therefore they should build houses, as Babylon is to be for long their home.

6. that ye . . . be . . . not diminished--It was God's will that the seed of Abraham should not fail; thus consolation is given them, and the hope, though not of an immediate, yet of an ultimate, return.

7. ( Ezra 6:10 , Romans 13:1 , 1 Timothy 2:2 ). Not only bear the Babylonian yoke patiently, but pray for your masters, that is, while the captivity lasts. God's good time was to come when they were to pray for Babylon's downfall ( Jeremiah 51:35 , Psalms 137:8 ). They were not to forestall that time. True religion teaches patient submission, not sedition, even though the prince be an unbeliever. In all states of life let us not throw away the comfort we may have, because we have not all we would have. There is here a foretaste of gospel love towards enemies ( Matthew 5:44 ).

8. your dreams which ye caused to be dreamed--The Latin adage says, "The people wish to be deceived, so let them be deceived." Not mere credulity misleads men, but their own perverse "love of darkness rather than light." It was not priests who originated priestcraft, but the people's own morbid appetite to be deceived; for example, Aaron and the golden calf ( Exodus 32:1-4 ). So the Jews caused or made the prophets to tell them encouraging dreams ( Jeremiah 23:25Jeremiah 23:26 , Ecclesiastes 5:7 , Zechariah 10:2 , John 3:19-21 ).

Jeremiah 25:12 , Daniel 9:2 ). This proves that the seventy years date from Jeconiah's captivity, not from the last captivity. The specification of time was to curb the impatience of the Jews lest they should hasten before God's time.
good word--promise of a return.

11. I know--I alone; not the false prophets who know nothing of My purposes, though they pretend to know.
thoughts . . . I think--( Isaiah 55:9 ). Glancing at the Jews who had no "thoughts of peace," but only of "evil" (misfortune), because they could not conceive how deliverance could come to them. The moral malady of man is twofold--at one time vain confidence; then, when that is disappointed, despair. So the Jews first laughed at God's threats, confident that they should speedily return; then, when cast down from that confidence, they sank in inconsolable despondency.
expected end--literally, "end and expectation," that is, an end, and that such an end as you wish for. Two nouns joined by "and," standing for a noun and adjective. So in Jeremiah 36:27 , "the roll and the words," that is, the roll of words; Genesis 3:16 , "sorrow and conception," that is, sorrow in conception. Compare Proverbs 23:18 , where, as here "end" means "a happy issue."

12. Fulfilled ( Daniel 9:3 , &c.). When God designs mercy, He puts it into the hearts of His people to pray for the mercy designed. When such a spirit of prayer is poured out, it is a sure sign of coming mercy.
go--to the temple and other places of prayer: contrasted with their previous sloth as to going to seek God.

13. ( Leviticus 26:40-42Leviticus 26:44Leviticus 26:45 ).

14. to be found--( Psalms 32:6 , Isaiah 55:6 ).
turn . . . captivity--play upon sounds, shabti . . . shebith.

15. Because--referring not to the preceding words, but to Jeremiah 29:10Jeremiah 29:11 , "Jehovah saith this to you" (that is, the prophecy of the continuance of the captivity seventy years), "because ye have said, The Lord hath raised us up prophets in Babylon," namely, foretelling our speedy deliverance (this their prophecy is supposed, not expressed; accordingly, Jeremiah 29:16-19 contradict this false hope again, Jeremiah 29:8Jeremiah 29:9Jeremiah 29:21 ). He, in this fifteenth verse, turns his address from the godly ( Jeremiah 29:12-14 ) to the ungodly listeners, to false prophets.

16. people . . . in this city . . . not gone forth--So far from your returning to Jerusalem soon, even your brethren still left dwelling there shall themselves also be cast into exile. He mentions "the throne of David," lest they should think that, because David's kingdom was to be perpetual, no severe, though temporary, chastisements could interpose ( Psalms 89:29-36 ).

17. vile figs--Hebrew, "horrible," or nauseous, from a root, "to regard with loathing" (see Jeremiah 24:8Jeremiah 24:10 ).

18. removed to all . . . kingdoms--( Jeremiah 15:4 , Deuteronomy 28:25 ).
curse, &c.--( Jeremiah 29:6 , 18:16 , 19:8 ).

21. Zedekiah--brother of Zephaniah ( Jeremiah 29:25 ), both being sons of Maaseiah; probably of the same family as the false prophet under Ahab in Israel ( 1 Kings 22:111 Kings 22:24 ).

22. shall be taken . . . a curse--that is, a formula of imprecation.
Lord make thee like Zedekiah--(Compare Genesis 48:20 , Isaiah 65:15 ).
roasted in the fire--a Chaldean punishment ( Daniel 3:6 ).

23. villainy--literally, "sinful folly" ( Isaiah 32:6 ).

24-32. A second communication which Jeremiah sent to Babylon, after the messenger who carried his first letter had brought a letter from the false prophet Shemaiah to Zephaniah, &c., condemning Jeremiah and reproving the authorities for not having apprehended him.
Nehelamite--a name derived either from his father or from a place: alluding at the same time to the Hebrew meaning, "a dreamer" (compare Jeremiah 29:8 ).

25. in thy name--without sanction of "the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel," which words stand in antithesis to "thy name" ( John 5:43 ).
Zephaniah--the second priest, or substitute (Sagan) of the high priest. He was one of those sent to consult Jeremiah by Zedekiah ( Jeremiah 21:1 ). Slain by Nebuchadnezzar at the capture of Jerusalem ( 2 Kings 25:18-21 ). Zephaniah was in particular addressed, as being likely to take up against Jeremiah the prophet's prediction against his brother Zedekiah at Babylon ( Jeremiah 29:21 ). Zephaniah was to read it to the priests, and in the presence of all the people, in the temple.

26. thee . . . in the stead of Jehoiada--Zephaniah's promotion as second priest, owing to Jehoiada's being then in exile, was unexpected. Shemaiah thus accuses him of ingratitude towards God, who had so highly exalted him before his regular time.
ye should be officers . . . for every man--Ye should, as bearing rule like Jeremiah.
mad--Inspired prophets were often so called by the ungodly ( 2 Kings 9:11 , Acts 26:24 , Acts 2:13Acts 2:15Acts 2:17Acts 2:18 ). Jeremiah is in this a type of Christ, against whom the same charge was brought ( John 10:20 ).
prison--rather, "the stocks"
stocks--from a root, "to confine"; hence rather, "a narrow dungeon." According to Deuteronomy 17:8Deuteronomy 17:9 , the priest was judge in such cases, but had no right to put into the stocks; this right he had assumed to himself in the troubled state of the times.

27. of Anathoth--said contemptuously, as "Jesus of Nazareth."
maketh himself--as if God had not made him one, but he himself had done so.

28. Referring to Jeremiah's first letter to Babylon ( Jeremiah 29:5 ).

29. Zephaniah . . . read . . . in the ears of Jeremiah--He seems to have been less prejudiced against Jeremiah than the others; hence he reads the charge to the prophet, that he should not be condemned without a hearing. This accords with Shemaiah's imputation against Zephaniah for want of zeal against Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 29:26Jeremiah 29:27 ). Hence the latter was chosen by King Zedekiah as one of the deputation to Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 21:1 , 37:3 ).

30. This resumes the thread of the sentence which began at Jeremiah 29:25 , but was left there not completed. Here, in this thirtieth verse, it is completed, not however in continuity, but by a new period. The same construction occurs in Romans 5:12-15 .

32. not . . . a man to dwell--( Deuteronomy 28:18 ).
not . . . behold the good--As he despised the lawful time and wished to return before the time God had expressly announced, in just retribution he should not share in the restoration from Babylon at all.
rebellion--going against God's revealed will as to the time ( Jeremiah 28:16 ).