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NUS student’s urban planning project wins nationwide tech competition

By Clarice Africa 09 Jul 2014

A National University of Singapore (NUS) student’s passion for sustainable urban planning has secured him a ticket to the world’s largest spatial conference – the Esri International User Conference (Esri UC) in San Diego, California. 

Abdul Rahim Bin Abdul Hamid – a Department of Architecture student – won the 2014 Esri Young Scholars Award (EYSA) for his project entitled: ‘Potential ecological networks in Singapore’, which aims to help Singapore’s planners effectively implement urban biodiversity conservation initiatives.

The nation-wide competition, run annually by Esri Singapore, celebrates excellence in geospatial study, and more specifically, the creative use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology – or smart mapping technology – to solve commercial and community issues.

The NUS student bested hopefuls from across Singapore for a chance to showcase his work to over 15,000 GIS professionals from 140 countries.

Mr Rahim expressed that Singapore, by virtue of its geographical location, has rich biodiversity – in spite of its fast-paced urbanisation.

“We have tropical rainforests, mangroves, coral reefs and freshwater ecosystems that are rich with thousands of species of flora and fauna – and many of them rare,” Mr Rahim said.

"Using GIS technology, I have been able to study the spatial characterisation of Singapore's green areas and assess the quality and suitability of habitats where different types of species coexist.”

The outstanding student’s innovative use of GIS technology will enable urban planners and conservation experts to easily identify areas around Singapore which need more intensive planting of greenery, alongside areas which are likely to suffer due to building and construction works.

Mr Rahim has studied two sites to date.

“The first is the old railway corridor, which is being considered as a viable ecological network,” says Mr Rahim.

“The second is a forested area north of Bulim, which is the site of the planned expansion of Jurong Industrial Park and a future housing estate.

"Using the ecological framework tool I have developed, we can preserve the ecological integrity and vegetation structure in these areas, while allowing the new infrastructural developments to take place.”

Esri Singapore Chief Executive Officer Thomas Pramotedham said the quality of the entries for this year’s Young Scholar Award exemplified the growing talent pool of young Singaporean geospatial experts.

“Singapore’s youth is very creative and receptive when it comes to new technologies,” says Mr Pramotedham.

“By helping cultivate spatial thinking amongst our youth – and teaching them to apply it to their everyday lives –  we can help students better understand the world around them and innovatively address real-life issues.”

Mr Rahim’s study has already piqued the interest of government agencies and a research centre, who has conveyed that they would like to use the planning tool the NUS student has developed.

Mr Pramotedham says Mr Rahim’s project was an obvious choice for the panel of judges, as it clearly articulates the award’s objectives.

“The potential ecological network will be a great tool for our land-scarce country, where policymakers are constantly looking for innovative ways to strike a balance between urbanisation and ecological conservation," he said.

 

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