The Diverse Impacts of Megaprojects

Can economic benefits promised by urban megaprojects be achieved while also reducing risks and controversy created due to their environmental and social impacts?

Megaprojects, often seen in the Middle East and Asia, are becoming more common throughout the world. These multi-billion dollar development projects are launched through the promise of great economic benefits and progress, yet many are surrounded by controversy due to their social and environmental impacts. Developers are increasingly pursuing urban megaprojects outside their home country as they seek to expand to new markets, but this exploration can create challenges as they encounter unfamiliar politics and regulations abroad.

Marcel Williams’s (MCP '16) thesis examines the impacts of urban megaprojects through a case study of Forest City, an estimated $110 billion project in the state of Johor off the southern coast of Malaysia. Forest City is a vast luxury real estate development by Chinese developer Country Garden, on 14-square kilometers of reclaimed land spread over four islands in the Straits of Johor, the strip of water which separates Malaysia from Singapore. An adaptation of Williams's thesis is available on the Malaysia Sustainable Cities Program website, along with a range of research on Malaysia’s sustainable development completed by annual cohorts of international visiting scholars since 2015.

The unpredicted 2018 election results in Malaysia that removed the country’s incumbent political party since its independence have dramatically shifted the political and popular perception of Chinese investment in Malaysia. In a series of six articles for Mongabay, Keith Schneider explores mega developments and new infrastructure throughout Peninsular Malaysia. Schneider's article on Forest City features excerpts from Williams and his thesis. Read the full series here.

Interested to learn more about the Forest City project? Click here to access MIT's award-winning, digital case study (Desktop and Chrome only).

Image credit: Takeo Kuwabara, Marcel Williams, and Griffin Smith  (2016 and 2018)