14 October 2009

Rising seas and Singapore, on Blog Action Day

Pancake flat and surrounded by the sea: is how Singapore has been described.
The city skyline and Tanjung Pagar port
Singapore from the sea.

Blog Action Day 2009 on 15 Oct has the theme of climate change. Among the many effects of climate change that Singapore faces is a long, slow submersion as sea levels creep up.

This video clip shared on YouTube was taken in January this year at East Coast Park.

What can happen in Singapore when sea levels rise?

In 1974 a rare astronomical event caused the tides to rise to nearly 4m (more than double the usual level). There was flooding along the Singapore River, parts of the airport and East Coast Park were flooded and the coast was badly eroded.

Our major economic assets lie less than 2m above sea level: the airport, business district, petrochemical plants, ports, shipyards.

Rising seas will also threaten Singapore's coastal reservoirs, such as Kranji, Sarimbun and Seletar. Salt water entering these reservoirs will make the water undrinkable. It can take up to two years for the sea water to be flushed out completely by rainwater, according to the Public Utilities Board.

With rising seas, the West Coast could be vulnerable to wave attacks because of seasonal thunderstorms called 'the Sumatras'. Today, those storms already generate waves that are more than a metre high.
Sumatras building up over Jurong Island.

What is being done to protect Singapore from rising seas?

"We have strong reasons to be concerned, but no reasons for panic," said the director of the Singapore Delft Water Alliance which is looking into impact of rising sea levels on Singapore.

According to the experts, Singapore is unlikely to build dikes per se, but rather concrete seawalls. Dikes are technically made of earth and Singapore doesn't have much of this resource. Many scientists believe that dikes are no longer the most environmentally sensitive solution. Ways are being studied to incorporate mangroves and sea grasses into the design of seawalls to improve their environmental impact and make them look better.

In Sep 08, Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said we already have existing measures in place that significantly reduce our exposure to the risks.

Since 1991, all new reclamation projects have to be built to a level 125cm above the highest recorded tide level. This is 66cm more than the IPCC's projected highest sea level rise of 59cm by the end of the 21stcentury in the worst-case scenario.

Reduced area prone to floods due to drainage infrastructure in particular the completion of the Marina Barrage.

The impact of sea level rise on Singapore
Ng Wei-Shiuen and Robert Mendelsohn
Global climate change is expected to cause sea level rise, which will have major effects on Singapore because it is a small, low-lying island state. With the high degree of urbanization and industrialization on the island, land is scarce and very valuable. Examining three sea level rise scenarios for the next century, we explore whether Singapore should defend their coast or allow it to be inundated. Across ten coastal sites representing all market land in Singapore, we found that protection was the lowest cost strategy. The annual cost of protecting the coasts of Singapore will rise over time as the sea level rises and will range from 0.3 to 5.7 million US$ by 2050 to 0.9 to 16.8 million US$ by 2100. The present value of these costs ranges from 0.17 to 3.08 million US$ depending on the sea level rise scenario.

Coastal forest at Chek Jawa
Rocky shore of Chek Jawa at high tide.

What one person do about this?

It may sound depressing, but there is still time to make changes to our individual lifestyles. As consumers, we have the power to influence through the choices that we make.

In Singapore, the next upcoming climate change event is 24 Oct (Sat): International Day of Climate Action.

For myself, besides trying hard to reduce my footprint, I will continue to visit and document about our shores. Climate change will impact marine life not only through rising seas but also ocean acidification. Our shores will change together with the climate.
A4 Poster: You CAN make a difference

MORE ways to make a difference
for our wild places.

Related posts
Media articles about rising seas and Singapore
More media articles about rising seas in general


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