It is not a term which is unheard of by us, especially in the past decade, where it has been used as a buzzword by organisations and companies of all industries.

Sustainability, according to Investopedia, means focusing on the present needs without compromising on the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

The concept of sustainability is composed of three pillars: economic, environmental, and social - also known informally as profits, planet, and people.

Kuala Lumpur has been in the news for the past few years in making it in the list of global sustainable cities. However, there has been equal debates on whether the beloved city has earned its place in those lists.

President of Malaysian Institute of Planners (MIP) Ihsan Zainal Mokhtar said that KL has not fully reached the status of a world-class sustainable city as there are still several factors that need to be looked at.


He said KL is about 30% away and targeted to be a world-class sustainable city by 2026. “To be a sustainable city, we must look beyond the ‘green factors’ like recycling, air pollution and natural catastrophe risks.

We need to examine income inequality, housing and living costs, reliability of public transportation among others,” Ihsan said.

Ihsan expressed, in terms of public transportation, Kuala Lumpur is not as well connected as compared to other more developed cities, and the public is not fully dependant on public transportations as of now.

“People in the city prefer to drive as it is more reliable and this has led to traffic congestion. We seem to be missing out on one important part in developing the city, which is ensuring that cities are for the community and not for cars,” he said.

One of the biggest initiatives – in terms of creating awareness, planning and executing it to create sustainable cities globally, is the World Class Sustainable Cities (WCSC) conference.

(L-R) Norzakiah Arshad (PAM Council Member), Datin Noraida Saludin (MIP Honorary Secretary), Nik Mastura Diyana (Senior Deputy Director, Dept of City Planning, DBKL), Michael Fu (REHDA Youth Advisor), Ihsan, Tong, Adrina, Tay, Chan Kin Meng (REHDA WP Deputy Chairman), Lang Cong (Managing Director, Vanke Malaysia) and Saifuddin Ahmad; at the press conference of the official launch of WCSC 2019.

Held annually in Kuala Lumpur, the conference has brought awareness to developers, architects, town planners and local authorities in creating sustainable cities in Malaysia.

According to WCSC's past organising chairman Datuk NK Tong, the impact of WCSC has been significant in the development of KL city and many local authorities from all over Malaysia have benefitted from the conference.

Organising committee chairman of WCSC 2019 Ra Adrina Muztaza said Kuala Lumpur is set to embark on a new journey to the future through its new KL City Plan 2020 to 2040.

“Re-planning for the next 20 years has started with Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) looking into the long-term for its development plans and the challenges they will be facing, from demographic changes to climate change, technology disruptions and scarcity of land,” she said.


She added the conference, themed “Next: KL 2040”, will explore how Kuala Lumpur and other cities in Malaysia can prepare for the challenges towards becoming world-class sustainable and liveable cities.

“Strategies, approaches and mechanisms that will safeguard our future development needs have to be formulated carefully.

Innovative and creative solutions to today’s concerns and future trends need to be put in place by city Managers and city stakeholders. Additionally, the role and participation of civil society in city planning and city administration will become crucial and significant,” she said.

In its 11th series, WCSC 2019 is aimed to focus on the future of Kuala Lumpur by providing a constructive and inclusive platform as well as a strategic working arena for various parties, including city managers, engineers and other stakeholders in the city, to address how Kuala Lumpur, as well as other cities in Malaysia, should move forward to create a more sustainable city.


To be held on Sept 19 at Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur, WCSC 2019 is organised by Real Estate and Housing Developers Association Malaysia Kuala Lumpur (Rehda KL), Malaysian Institute of Planners (MIP), and Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM).

International and Malaysian speakers at the one-day event are Victorian Planning Authority chief executive officer Stuart Moseley, UNStudio principal urban planner Caroline Bos, Gehl Architects founder and senior advisor Jan Gehl and Think City urban solutions programme manager Dr Cecelia Long.

“Over the past 11 years, WCSC is truly gratified to have continued with efforts to educate and change public mindsets and perceptions on the benefits as well as challenges faced in becoming a world-class city that is sustainable and liveable,” said Adrina.

Some of the positive initiatives and progressive results implemented in Malaysia, which were learnt from past WCSC conference series, including the transformation of Cheongyecheon River restoration in Seoul, Korea that was a great prelude to Kuala Lumpur’s River of Life project; Brazil’s Curitiba experience for its exemplary city transportation solutions.


Hong Kong and Singapore’s pedestrianization projects that include covered walkway systems to make cities for the people; and the metamorphosis of Kaohsiung, Taiwan from an industrial polluter to an ecological tourist hub demonstrating that liveable cities are creative and competitive.

PAM president Lillian Tay said WCSC is a place where town planners, architects and stakeholders could gather to discuss what they could do for the city, as it was important in creating sustainable city planning.

She explained, this year’s line-up of speakers was well-curated and hoping participants would be able to learn and adopt suitable projects in the next KL City Plan.

Ihsan said WCSC would be able to assist DBKL in visualising the local government’s aim to be a world-class city, through tips and ideas shared by participants.


Other activities planned for WCSC include two exclusive masterclass workshops, a youth workshop entitled “Young People’s Lab” and a photography competition.

The masterclass workshops will see participants visiting two sites in Kuala Lumpur – Jalan Sultan near Petaling Street and Jalan Ikan Emas – which DBKL plans to redevelop in the future.

Prior to the event, a special book launch will be held on Sept 17 for the Bahasa Malaysia edition of Jan Gehl’s book called Cities for People to be published by Universiti of Malaya Press. For further information, kindly visit WCSC website at

(By Roznah Abdul Jabbar, 16 July 2019)