Everyone knows that Singapore has done extensive land reclamation. In 50 years, the “Small Red Dot” has grown by 22% of its original area (The Economist, 2015). The article written by The Economist (2015) also states that Singapore is the country which imports the most sand, so much so that neighbouring countries, Malaysia and Indonesia, have stopped supplying sand to Singapore. In the map below, we can see how much land Singapore has reclaimed over the years.
Photo retrieved from UNEP
Land reclamation in Singapore brought us many benefits. We reclaimed land in Marine Parade to build residential homes to house our growing population (Koh & Lin, 2006), Changi to build Changi International Airport to serve as a transport hub and the Marina Bay area for economic development (The Basement Geographer, 2011). These few examples demonstrate the benefits of land reclamation in Singapore. Land reclamation in Singapore seemed like a success for our nation as it enabled us to improve our economy, house more people and develop our tourism and trade. However, we fail to look at the environmental impacts of land reclamation.
Firstly, Singapore imports its sand for her reclamation works. This involves dredging from lake beds and sea beds in other countries to supply us with the sand which destroys ecosystems and can pollute waters as toxic chemicals may be released from the sediments (Al-Madany et al., 1991). In his paper, Al-Madany et al. (1991) also asserts that land reclamation may cause seawater to mix with groundwater, increasing its salinity and may disrupt natural drainages which can worsen flooding, affecting agriculture. Therefore, land reclamation can affect food and water security which may cause prices to increase. This indirectly affects Singaporeans as we depend on exports for essentials such as water and rice – a staple food in Singapore.
Secondly, closer to home, land reclamation has destroyed much of our native ecosystems. Our coastal works have decreased mangrove forest cover to 0.5% of Singapore’s total land area from 13% originally and we are left with approximately 35% of our original corals. (Wild Singapore, 2008). Both ecosystems are important habitats for many fish species (World Land Trust, n.d.). Thus, the destruction of both these ecosystems decreases fish populations in the region which in turn decreases food supply and increases prices. Furthermore, mangroves and coral reefs are both very effective stores of Blue Carbon (Zarate-Barrera & Maldonado, 2015), thus decreasing the effects of global warming by a considerable extent.
I feel that our government should take into considerations the environmental impacts before proceeding with land reclamation. The needs of our country are important. However, the environmental impacts of land reclamation ultimately affect Singaporeans. Being a developed society, it is our responsibility and duty to reduce our environmental damage and think of new ways we can solve our domestic problems.
Lots of love
Al-Madany, I. M., Abdalla, M. A., & Abdu, A. S. (1991). Coastal zone management in Bahrain: An analysis of social, economic and environmental impacts of dredging and reclamation. Journal of environmental management, 32(4), 335-348.
Coral Reef and Mangrove Forest Protection Project | World Land Trust. (n.d.). Worldlandtrust.org. Retrieved 18 October 2016, from http://www.worldlandtrust.org/projects/reef-mangrove
Koh, T., & Lin, J. (2006). Land Reclamation Case: Thoughts and Reflections, The. SYBIL, 10, 1.
Loss of coastal ecosystems in Singapore. (2008). Wildsingapore.com. Retrieved 18 October 2016, from http://www.wildsingapore.com/wildfacts/concepts/loss.htm
Reclaimed Land in Singapore: Nation-Building in the Most Literal Sense | The Basement Geographer. (2011). Basementgeographer.com. Retrieved 18 October 2016, from http://basementgeographer.com/reclaimed-land-in-singapore-nation-building-in-the-most-literal-sense/
Such quantities of sand. (2015). The Economist. Retrieved 18 October 2016, from http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21645221-asias-mania-reclaiming-land-sea-spawns-mounting-problems-such-quantities-sand
Zarate-Barrera, T. & Maldonado, J. (2015). Valuing Blue Carbon: Carbon Sequestration Benefits Provided by the Marine Protected Areas in Colombia. PLOS ONE, 10(5), e0126627. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0126627