Coastline and Land Reclamation

by Dr Tan Lip Hong

Singapore’s total land area now stands at 71,400 hectares.

According to the Land Use Plan report released on 31 January 2013, the Government plans to increase its land supply by nearly 8 per cent to 76,600 hectares to accommodate its projected population of 6.9 million by 2030.

About 60 per cent will be set aside for housing, industry and community facilities – up from the current 52 per cent.

A large part of the additional land will come from reclamation and freeing up reserve land.

It can be seen from the map that future land reclamation work is largely to increase the size of the main island of Singapore as well as existing off shore islands like Pulau Tekong, Pulau Bukom and Pulau Semakau.

This plan would destroy the existing coastlines around the main island, much the same way as the Marine Parade reclamation off the East Coast in the past has destroyed all the old picturesque coastlines of Tanjong Katong, Telok Kurau, Siglap, Bedok, Tanah Merah with all their natural habitats, heritage, history and memories.

This approach of reclaiming more land to increase the size of the main Singapore island, in the process ‘straightening’ and ‘improving’ existing coastlines by getting rid of the many existing coves and inlets, is inherently flawed.

Our reclamation policy should be to increase the length of usable coastline by creating new islands off-shore (the Long Island planned for the East Coast is a good example, as well as the Punggol islands), leaving the existing coastline untouched.

These new islands could be about 500 metres (the nearest distance Pulau Ubvin is to the mainland) away from the mainland and be connected to the mainland by bridges.

This way, all the old coastlines can be retained, and at the same time the new island coastlines off-shore will allow for more sea front housing. In addition, the wide waterways in between land masses will give much needed breathing space for our dense country.

By reclaiming the same hectarage (with a slight increase in expense of building bridges, as well as additional length of road and rail), the water bodies in between land masses will allow housing to be spread out much more, and allow for a less compressed and much higher quality living environment.

Dr Tan Lip Hong is a member of the SDP Healthcare Advisory Panel.

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