The rapid pace and scale of urbanization in many emerging market countries around the world is a cause for concern among urban planners, development economists and government officials, as well as utility and transportation services providers and those involved with managing natural resources and protecting the environment. Looking to address their concerns, an international group of experts will draw attention to a "smart eco-village" that's been built in Malaysia, a model, sustainable community consisting of "affordable homes, high-tech educational, training and recreational facilities, and a creative, closed-loop agricultural system designed to provide both food and supplementary income for villagers." Project developers, officials of the NY Academy of Sciences and the Malaysian Prime Minister's Science Advisor will present details of the smart eco-village at a special meeting of Malaysia's Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council (GSIAC) in San Jose today. In addition to developing additional smart eco-villages in Malaysia, they believe the concept and design "provides a potential global template for addressing rural poverty in a sustainable environment."
Self-sustaining smart eco-villages: Addressing rural poverty & rapid urbanization
Spreading across some 12 hectares (~29 acres), the model smart eco-village of Rimbunan Kaseh lies northeast of the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. In addition to 100 affordable, energy-efficient homes, community infrastructure includes a four-level aquaculture system and solar energy, biomass and mini-hydro systems to generate electricity. The homes themselves, each about 100 square meters (1,000 square feet) in area, took just ten days to build. Reclaimed "post-consumer" materials have been reused in their construction. Their total cost: between $16,000 and $20,000. Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are the primary source of electricity for smart eco-village residents. Biomass and mini-hydro also contribute to meeting their energy needs.
The four-level aquaculture system is another core facet of the model community. At the top level of the system, water cascades through a series of tanks in which "fish sensitive to water quality, then tilapia ('the world's answer to affordable protein,' says GSIAC's Dato' Tan Say Jim,)" guppies and lastly, algae are raised. The guppies and algae are food for the larger fish.
"It is a complete loop; a modern farm -- one that could even exist on the rooftop of a building," Mr. Tan commented. In addition to his work with GSIAC, Tan is employed by IRIS Corporation Berhad, the organization lead managing the public-private partnership that's developed the model community.
"With this project we stimulate rural growth with modern agriculture activities, we balance development and economic activities between the urban and rural areas, we provide income and we improve living standards," Mr. Tan stated.
"Integrated smart communities could transform services available to Malaysia's citizenry while creating thousands of jobs, complementing GSIAC's unprecedented alliance to improve education in that country at every level from 'Cradle to Career'."
An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.