Início » “Macau should not lose its small-town atmosphere”

“Macau should not lose its small-town atmosphere”

The director of the Institute for Sustainable Urbanization in Hong Kong, Sujata Govada, says that Macau's size encourages the creation of interconnected pedestrian zones. Looking at public housing projects in Zone A, she says some things can be learned from Hong Kong: replicating the success of the public transportation network while avoiding creating residential areas without complementary services. "Mixed development is important so that people can live, work, and enjoy themselves in their residential area."

Nelson Moura

In your presentation, you mentioned that maybe Macau shouldn’t focus so much on building new landfills. Could you elaborate?

Sujata Govada – Basically, what I said was that there are many landfills in Macau, but it’s something I understand. The city has a slightly different situation from Hong Kong because the waters in Macau have an average depth of about three meters. Even without land reclamation, there’s a lot of sedimentation. My main point was that if the choice is to build landfills, it’s necessary to ensure that any new project is really well thought out, that it doesn’t have a very large impact on the environment, and that it brings more benefits to the people. To genuinely complement Macau and make it a better city. Community involvement is also important, so I suggested some principles, like the ones we use in Hong Kong and the Philippines, where we gather stakeholders, including government, public sector, private sector, academics, and the community, and say: These are the critical urban issues.

One thing I feel now, with my over 35 years of experience, is that projects and developments are only successful if they bring advantages to different segments of society. They should be beneficial for the community but also for the private sector, the government, and all involved parties.

Therefore, it’s necessary to assess the impact these projects have on the environment and the advantages they bring to the city?

S.G. – One of the things we’ve been doing is destroying the planet and the environment. I’m not saying just in Macau; it happens everywhere. That’s the truth worldwide. If we disappear tomorrow, the planet will be fine. But if we continue to live in this way, we’re not just harming the ecosystem, ecology, but also animal systems and all life in general. As human beings, we have this sense that by birthright, we are superior to all other species and that we can do whatever we want. I think that attitude over time has led to many of the problems we see in cities or even in rural areas. That’s what I saw in Macau, with many landfills.

Many cities have done some landfilling over time, like Boston, New York, etc. In Hong Kong, it became a problem because they did it excessively, to the point where the harbor became narrower and the river more turbulent. Hong Kong is an active port, so people started to get annoyed and complained or initiated lawsuits where they told the government that they couldn’t create more landfills. I don’t think Macau has reached that point, but I think it’s an area where there can be improvements in communication with the people.

How do you suggest increasing the involvement of the population in these matters?

S.G. – Perhaps through education and awareness so that people understand all these factors. At the end of the day, what everyone wants is to live a happy and healthy life. But they can ask what the result of the plans being drawn up is. That is, who is benefiting? I think looking at that is important and ensuring consultation from both top to bottom and bottom to top.

Government involvement is necessary, but it can’t be said that it should do everything. The community also needs to become a stakeholder and get involved, trying to live and act responsibly.

Zone A will accommodate around 28,000 residents. What lessons can be drawn from similar projects in Hong Kong?

S.G. – I think in Hong Kong, public housing is used as a way to build new urban centers or development areas. Public housing is built, and new transport links are implemented. The transportation infrastructure is good, but I think too much public housing is developed without any other projects, and that has become a problem. That is, the complements to public housing take five or 10 years to arrive. During that period, there are only people in that public housing complex, and facilities that meet their needs are not built. Tin Shui Wai, for example, was planned in conjunction with the private sector. The government went ahead with the plans, but then the market economy collapsed, and the private partners disappeared. The government had already invested a lot and continued with the project, but because the private sector only came later, many social problems arose. Mixed development is important so that people can live, work, and have fun in their residential area. This creates a vibrant community. There should also be a mix of social classes, meaning these areas should not only serve residents with little financial capacity.

Considering your field of study in Hong Kong, what would be the good and bad examples that Macau can use to develop Zone A?

S.G. – What was understood is that the occupancy rate should be about five square meters per person. Hong Kong has to do much better, and in new urban projects, they are trying to create more open space.

If we look at Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, for example, they develop an occupancy rate of 15 square meters per person, while Hong Kong on average has less than three. Where Hong Kong has been extremely good is in terms of public transportation. I think Macau can definitely learn from the experience of public transportation in Hong Kong.

You also mentioned the need to make the city more convenient for pedestrians. How could Macau develop this area?

S.G. – People in Hong Kong walk a lot compared to, let’s say, Western countries. A person is almost forced to walk, which is good, but it’s not a very pleasant experience in all areas. Hong Kong and Macau are also extremely safe; Macau should not lose its small-town atmosphere despite the new developments. The waterfront areas should become much more accessible and walkable. I think it’s really necessary to change this orientation from using cars to one that favours the use of public transportation and pedestrian zones, where walking or cycling becomes a form of public transportation.

I think, if anything came out of the pandemic, it’s that people realized the importance of family, public space, health, and having a slightly slower pace of life.

Do you know why community involvement is so important? Because only then do you understand the aspirations and problems of the residents. You can be a designer in a big company or even someone sitting in government offices, but you won’t know exactly the common problems until you experience the daily lives of others. Only then is it possible to conceive a plan that is appropriate for everyone.

Contact Us

Generalist media, focusing on the relationship between Portuguese-speaking countries and China.

Plataforma Studio


Subscribe Plataforma Newsletter to keep up with everything!