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Urban perspectives

Urban planning, or the lack thereof, is a subject that comes to the surface every so often. The lack of an overall urban development frame and the cumulative effect of casual - and often of doubtful merit - decisions is taking a heavy and visible toll on the city landscape. It affects both the quality of life of its residents and the experience of its visitors.
Last week, the Urban Planning Committee – created in early 2014 and comprising almost 30 members – met for the presentation of a document titled MSAR Strategy for Urban Development 2016-2030. That should sound like good news. The first bits of information coming out in the media are, howver, somewhat discouraging.
The study highlight and focus, as far as the media reports are concerned, is the creation of a so-called fourth area. That is, Macau needs to grow more, geographically speaking – and so we need more land reclamation. Well, that Macau geography imposes tough problems and hard choices for the region’s growth is hardly news. Several big land reclamation projects carried out in past decades, and a few under development, are testimony to that.
Yet, one might reasonably expect that the priority would be to put some order into the current state of affairs. Namely, setting a clear frame for the development of the existing and unused plots or those under construction. That does not seem the case, and most residents will continue paying dearly for the omission.
So the big unknown is really where should the land reclamation take place - in Hengqin Island or Coloane? Getting into that discussion will divert us from the main issue, which is certainly not the promoters’ purpose or my intention. But it all suggests that we are, once again, kicking the can down the road while things fall apart. That might be for the benefit of some, and certainly not everyone complains about the current state of urban affairs and lack of planning. It is doubtful such a state of affairs represents the interests of the many or shows a real concern about the city and its residents’ welfare.
Instead of dealing with the real, immediate and severe dysfunctions of our city, do we risk starting a discussion about another promised ‘paradise’ will solve all our problems many years from now? As if there was nothing to learn from the past and the future could only be better?
We’ve been there before.