SINGAPORE: Desmond Lee, Minister for National Development has disclosed plans for an extensive integrating of coastal defence strategies with future reclamation initiatives along the East Coast.
Referred to as the “Long Island” concept, this project is slated to undergo comprehensive technical studies over the next five years to assess its feasibility.
Envisioned as an expansive endeavor, the “Long Island” project aims to reclaim approximately 800 hectares of land—equivalent to about 1,142 football fields—an area twice the size of the iconic Marina Bay.
Minister Lee emphasized the transformative potential of this project during a speech on Tuesday (28 Nov), emphasizing the vast opportunities it could offer to future generations of Singaporeans.
“This creates opportunities for future generations of Singaporeans,” said Desmond Lee in a speech delivered on Tuesday during an event.
“They could build homes, create jobs, develop services and amenities that they need, and add around 20 km of new coastal and reservoir parks, extending from the current East Coast Park. This would triple the length of the existing waterfront area along East Coast Park today.”
Coastal protection plan
According to Mr Lee, The concept of “Long Island” is to project coastal protection seawards, by reclaiming three new tracts of land, at a higher level, away from the current coastline.
“This will allow us to retain the existing East Coast Park, largely as it is. It will also create an enclosed waterbody, preserving the waterfront character of the original East Coast Park. ”
“Over time, the waterbody will become a freshwater reservoir, which the public can use for water activities such as canoeing and dragon-boating. The reservoir will also add to our water supply.”
Projections indicate a potential increase in the mean sea level of up to 1 meter by 2100.
This was confirmed by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment in response to a Parliamentary question filed by PAP MP Christopher de Souza in August 2022.
Ms Fu said mean sea levels around Singapore have risen 10cm in the last four decades, based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR 5) findings.
When factoring in high tides and storm surges, this surge could escalate to 4 to 5 meters, posing a considerable threat to Singapore’s coastlines.
Since 2021, Singapore has been progressively conducting site-specific studies across various segments of its coastline.
To bolster local capabilities in coastal protection and flood management, the country inaugurated its first research center dedicated to this cause in September.
An estimated one-third of Singapore sits at an elevation of less than 5 meters above the mean sea level, said Minister Lee.
The impacts of elevated sea levels have already manifested at East Coast Park, spanning about 13 km, with instances of flooding occurring during heavy rain and high tide, notably in 2018 and more recently in January of this year.
In response, authorities explored the feasibility of erecting a 3-meter-high seawall along the entire waterfront of East Coast Park, extending from Marina East to Tanah Merah.
This proposal involves the installation of 12 tidal gates and pumping stations alongside existing outlet drains.
The primary purpose of these measures is to prevent seawater ingress and facilitate rainwater discharge during high tides and heavy rainfall.
However, Minister Lee highlighted potential drawbacks of these measures, particularly in terms of their impact on the park’s accessibility and disruption to recreational activities during the construction phase.
He noted that the implementation of the proposed tidal gates and pumping stations would necessitate sacrificing a substantial portion of the existing park space—roughly equivalent to 15 football fields.
” In essence, this approach means we implement coastal protection along the existing East Coast Park, but lose significant portions of the park and recreational use of the coastline.”
“Long Island” concept
The concept of ‘Long Island’ was first mooted under the Concept Plan in 1991.
Initially proposed as part of Singapore’s urban development framework, the idea gained traction as a potential safeguard against the escalating impacts of climate change, particularly in mitigating sea level rise along the East Coast.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong officially brought attention to the ‘Long Island’ initiative during the 2019 National Day Rally address.
Subsequently, it was prominently featured at the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s long-term planning exhibition the following year.
Scheduled to commence in 2024, the upcoming studies will encompass comprehensive environmental and engineering assessments to ascertain the viability of the conceptual reclamation plan.
These investigations aim to pave the way for the formulation of inventive and economically feasible nature-based solutions by the authorities.
Concurrently, active engagement with diverse stakeholders, including nature enthusiasts, recreational interest groups, and business entities, will be a key aspect of the planning process for ‘Long Island.’
This inclusive approach aims to gather insights, solicit feedback, and incorporate various perspectives into the development plans.
Upon the conclusion of the technical studies, Mr Lee highlighted the authorities’ commitment to involve the public in shaping the design and masterplan for ‘Long Island.’
Minister Lee emphasized the vast scale of the “Long Island” initiative, noting that its planning and execution will span several decades.
Highlighting the project’s early developmental phase, he mentioned, “The final shape and form of “Long Island” will evolve over time, and we must wait for the studies to be undertaken.”
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