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Friday, Oct. 26, 2007

Osaka summit covers Asian municipal concerns


Staff writer

OSAKA — Government leaders from 11 Asian cities, six countries and from around the Kansai region gathered Thursday in Osaka for a two-day summit to discuss issues of mutual concern and cooperation, ranging from tourism and foreign direct investment to the environment.

In many of Asia's largest cities, the rapid economic growth of recent years has created unprecedented problems for local government officials, who are struggling to upgrade mass transportation, install new water and sewerage systems and clean up the environment.

This is especially true in Beijing, where international concern is growing over the air quality during the 2008 Olympics.

At the summit, Beijing Vice Mayor Lu Hao said that the city had made a great deal of progress during the past few years.

"Beijing's environment faces a lot of challenges, and we are envious of Tokyo's air quality. But last year, the air quality in central Beijing improved to the point where the air quality index reached grade-two 66 percent of the time, a 15 percent increase compared to 2001. We're relocating pollution-producing factories outside of the city in an effort to further improve quality," Lu said.

Economic prosperity has also led to the development of a huge, intra-Asian tourism industry.

Bangkok has invested large amounts of money in developing projects that emphasize ancient traditions and modern luxuries.

While Bangkok, like many local governments around Asia, has emphasized the construction of modern, upscale shopping facilities to attract tourists, the city is also in the tour guide business, providing a variety of guided tours of the city streets at night, as well as river tours during the day.

The summit is expected to include talks on strengthening information exchanges between the cities for purposes of increased foreign direct investment and tourism. Some cities, including New Delhi, also expressed the hope that it could learn, and possible receive technological assistance from, Japanese cities like Osaka in areas such as water management and waste disposal.



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