Faced with rampant overpopulation, Malaysia is preparing itself to build a giant smart city at the mouth of the strait that separates Johor province and Singapore. Named Forest City, this new city will be built on four artificial islands. These are linked by an underground transport system and connected to the other metropolises by a high-speed train. Forest City should have the status of free trade zone and will even have its own immigration department.
Houses with vegetated façades, office buildings, parks and suspended walkways, hotels, schools, shopping centres… This 100-billion dollar project will include 700,000 homes spread over 1,370 hectares. One peculiarity is that the archipelago offers apartments at prices five times lower than on dry land. I.e. 180,000 Euro for a two-room to 600,000 Euro for a four-room detached house at the seaside with one room reserved for reception, two car parks and a big garden. By way of comparison, a luxury apartment in Singapore costs around 665,000 Euro.
If Forest City is not yet inhabitable, initial works have already started and are scheduled to be completed in 2035. Developed by the Chinese real estate giant Country Garden and the sultan of Johor, the project targets the new Chinese fortunes searching for property investments. But several environmental organisations are against it: 162 square metres of sand that would have to be poured into the sea to build islands could destroy marine life and change the tides, they warn.
A new “ghost town”?
For a decade, China has been building without respite. Between 2011 and 2013, the country consumed more cement that the United States did in the entire 20th century. Some 3,500 new towns have thus been created, capable of housing 3.4 billion people, i.e. three times the current population of China. But most of these new towns are empty. This is the case of the Yujiapu district, which grew up in 2006 on the outskirts of Tianjin. Since then, this urban sprawl has turned into a “ghost town” deserted by inhabitants who never found any life there.