SINGAPORE: Last Tuesday, Desmond Lee, Minister for National Development disclosed plans for an 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.
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 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.”
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.”
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.”
Netizens express environmental concerns and development challenges
Observing discussions across social media platforms such as CNA, The Straits Times Facebook posts, and Reddit, a segment of the online community expressed the belief that reclamation appears unavoidable given the land and water scarcity issues faced by the city-state, anticipating the need for another reclamation initiative.
However, there exists scepticism regarding the potential long-term environmental impacts, implications for property prices along the East Coast Parkway (ECP), and the broader considerations of population and developmental planning in the region.
One netizen emphasized, “It’s the necessary path Singapore must take to ensure its survival in the future”.
He believed that without ensuring water security, the attraction for investors diminishes significantly. Similarly, without securing land against the risk of flooding, there’s a real threat of investors diverting their interests to other countries.
One comment remarked that the Singaporean government might be downplaying its potential, suggesting that they could have reclaimed an area at least 50% larger.
One netizen highlighted the potential benefits of the proposed project, citing the persistent erosion issues faced by the current East Coast beach over several decades.
He expressed enthusiasm about the idea of having a waterfront area similar to the layout seen in Sentosa, with water adjoining a new strip of land.
Concerns over potential property value impact
Several netizens have raised concerns about potential dissatisfaction among residents in the East Coast area due to the possibility of obstructed sea views caused by the introduction of new land and the potential increased construction of HDB blocks.
This concern stems from the anticipation of a potential decline in property prices as a result.
A netizen highlighted that the reclamation efforts will extend the shoreline to accommodate additional housing and flats.
Consequently, the apartments currently enjoying sea views may not retain this feature in the future.
” Just like last time East Coast Road is the sea and now pushed so much further out with no more sea view.”
There are concerns among netizens that this signals the government’s intention to reclaim more land for increased housing construction, aimed at accommodating the growing local population.
Meanwhile, a netizen expressed scepticism regarding the future success of the government’s upcoming reclamation endeavours.
He highlighted the struggles faced by the Marina South reclamation project, citing the lingering empty spaces despite significant investments in expensive reclaimed land, notably used for a botanical garden.
Another commenter suggested an alternative approach, proposing that rather than investing resources in new property developments, efforts should be directed towards reclaiming land to establish a new landfill site. The aim would be to replace Pulau Semakau, which is reaching capacity.
Observing comments on Reddit, a Redditor expressed concerns regarding the feasibility of implementing the “Long Island” plan due to inadequacies in the current road infrastructure, particularly in the East Coast Park area.
He believed that the rebuilding of highway interchanges would be necessary to facilitate the development without severely disrupting traffic flow.
The Redditor also discussed the significant timeframes involved in the process, including the settling period for the reclaimed land, the duration of the reclamation itself, and the extended timeline of approximately 60 to 70 years for the project’s completion.
“The only plus point about this revised plan compared to the previous one is that East Coast Park isn’t being destroyed. At this point it’s part of the common culture and heritage of Singaporeans and it’s an irreplaceable park. The water there is already bad, imagine how much worse it would be during reclamation.”
Concern over environmental impact
However, some netizens express concern about the potential long-term environmental impact of the project.
Notably, there are worries regarding endangered hawksbill turtles laying eggs along the East Coast beach.
The hawksbill turtle is among the two species of marine turtles found in Singapore waters, the other being the green turtle.
Annually, a few female hawksbill turtles return to Singapore’s shores to lay their eggs. This natural behaviour could face disruption or endangerment due to the proposed developments along 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 the rise of sea level 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.
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