OPINION – Macau 2040

It is the year 2040, and the biggest problem on the minds of local Macau residents was having to choose between the various cultural and leisure parks at their disposal.

Weekend choices are just too many, but luckily the local transport system was so efficient and fast that if you thought you made the wrong choice you could just quickly move on to the next world-class riverside al fresco pub.

This vision of an idyllic future was presented to us as the long-awaited draft of the master plan for Macau’s urban development between 2020-2040 that will create a ‘happy, smart, sustainable, and resilient city’ was unveiled this week.

Perusing the blueprint and seeing the beautifully crafted city mockups, one wishes they could be immediately catapulted to this utopia planned for 2040.

Green spaces everywhere, perfect interconnectivity between light rail and public transport, riverside areas that would put Singapore to shame, blue skies, palm trees, and happy families enjoying themselves in brand new playgrounds.

But one thing is for sure, according to government estimates it will be an even more crowded Ou Mun City.

By 2040, 808,000 people are expected to be living within the city’s 36.8 square kilometres.

That is almost 21,837 more people per square kilometre in 20 years, in a city that is already in the top five of the most densely populated jurisdictions according to UN data, with 20,400 people per square kilometre.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that by 2040 about 22 per cent of the local land will be used for residential purposes – it currently stands at 17 per cent – with only public infrastructure set to occupy more space, at 23 per cent.

According to the plan, in order to address this population increase,
in addition to the reclaimed New Urban Zones, the increase of housing areas in several areas, namely in Ilha Verde, Taipa, and Seac Pai Van, will also be planned and studied.

A lot of this future housing capacity depends on the completion of public housing developments in the New Area Zone A – the largest reclamation project- which is set to house some 100,000 people while offering new cultural, sport, and leisure areas to the city.

Zone A cultural area

So, in principle, there will be houses for everyone. But what kind of life quality will those 808,000 people have?

Most local residents want the basics for any livable metropolis – an efficient transport system, more open leisure areas, and affordable housing.

Thankfully, the draft predicts that almost 27 per cent of the city’s land area will be occupied by ecological preservation areas and green leisure areas. The document also makes a commitment to preserve the identity of historical heritage areas.

However, if the quality of life of the future residents seems ideal – as they will get to enjoy the benefits of the project once this has been completed, one big concern is the quality of life of the local residents who will experience the development of this Macau 2040 dream city first-hand.

We can predict a huge increase in large scale construction and infrastructure projects, which will undoubtedly disrupt daily life in the city – as they usually do. Authorities have promised a gradual and phased development to minimise their impact, but if the current situation serves as a reference, it is hard to imagine that will actually be the case.

Some areas of Taipa and Cotai already resemble permanent construction sites; there are new public housing developments all over the city, and we can’t forget the millions of tourists just waiting for the pandemic to stabilise so they can once more occupy our streets.

The draft for the East Light Rapid Transit line was also presented, and once the Taipa LRT is connected to the Gongbei Border, the city will probably finally see an actual change in the transport system because it will reduce local traffic. However, as was mentioned last week, just building the future underwater connection between Zone A and E could take five to six years.

We have a long way to go before our utopia effectively comes true, and all we can promise you now is blood, sweat, and construction noise near your residence.

Of course, the draft will still have to go through a lengthy evaluation process. And it will definitely go through changes after opinions are heard from residents in general and, hopefully, architects and urban planners, who, I’m sure, will like to provide their input.

The public consultation will last 60 days, until November 2; the final results will be known in about one year.

The company responsible for the consultation will then take about 180 days to elaborate a preliminary report, which will then be submitted to the Urban Planning Council for evaluation.

In the end, a final version will probably only be delivered to the Chief Executive by September 2021, so many more debates and discussions will be had.

However, it’s good to set the goals and parameters for the dream city we all want, and having a master guideline will finally remove part of the uncertainty over some local projects which have been suspended until the document is completed.

Let’s just hope all these future projects will actually benefit and improve the quality of life of this city’s residents, not just the bank accounts of several construction and development groups, as it seemed to be the case in many previous instances before.

[MNA Editor-in-Chief]