04 April 2010

Seringat-Kias in the mizzle

In a miserable drizzle (mizzle), a small team went to check out the artificial shores of Seringat-Kias.
Even though the tide is not very low, some stretches of the huge C-shaped 1km long artificial lagoon is exposed. Here, patches of seagrasses have settled and some signs of marine life can be encountered.

Where there is seagrass, there is usually more life.
Besides lots of tiny Spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis) there were some tiny Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.).
There were lots of Creeper snails (Batillaria zonalis) and some tiny round colourful Dubious nerites (Clithon oualaniensis).
There were a few Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) which quickly disappeared into the sand as the rain started to fall in earnest.
Other small creatures seen included tiny hermit crabs, an elbow crab, a very large Window-pane shell (Placuna sp.) and many busy whelks (Family Nassaridae) with long 'noses' out to sniff up a nice meal of the recently dead.
The soft silty sand was also a good place for anemones. The rain drove most of them into the sand but I did manage to see a little striped sand anemone, and a large mangrove anemone that we usually see on our Northern shores but seldom in the South.
Also, one little Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni) all curled up and miserable in the rain.
Large moon snail sand collars dotted the shores but the snails themselves were nowhere to be seen. Probably burrowed away from the rain. I was eager to see the rare Laganum sand dollars (Laganum depressum) which we saw on our last trip, but today I only saw skeletons.
There was one living Cake sand dollar (Arachnoides placenta), lots of little mudskippers that skipped away into the rain, and various crabs that disappeared into the murky rain-splashed waters.

Where there are rocks and hard surfaces, hard corals have started to settle.
Ivan and James went to the smaller lagoon in the middle of the island and saw more hard and soft corals, sponges, interesting stuff like Diadema sea urchins. Inside the lagoon were longer and wider Needle seagrasses (Halodule sp.) and more marine life. See James' blog for all the sightings.

The shores remind us of the marine life returning to the reclaimed shores at Tanah Merah. Perhaps with time and if they are not severely abused, more marine life will settle here.

A very long drift net is hung out to dry near the workers' quarters. Ivan and James saw lots of driftnets in the other lagoon that they visited. With many crabs caught by the people who laid them out.
Natural plants have settled on high shores. Lots of young Rhu trees (Casuarina equisetifolia), and other common shore plants. But I couldn't find any special plants.
Much of Seringat Kias seems to be still under construction. The rain turns the dirt tracks into mud wallows.
A closer look at the excavators on the island.
They seem to be in the middle of building concrete trails on the island.
There's a new jetty at Seringat-Kias! This is a lot safer than the old slippery jetty (where I have actually slid down and nearly killed the rest of the team waiting below me on the steps - I felt like a giant bowling ball!).
The jetty looks very recently completed, with trees just being planted and landscaping not yet completed.
Where is Seringat-Kias?

This artificial island lies off St. John's Island, near Kusu Island. It was created by burying the reefs of Pulau Seringat (formerly called Pulau Renget Besar), Pulau Seringat Kecil and Fairburn Reef. One of the touted features is the C-shaped 1km long artificial lagoon.
Here's Kusu Island today, off the large C-shaped artificial lagoon in the rain. We often see boats parked inside the lagoon.
A view of St. Johns' Island, and the much further away Sisters Islands. Taken from the new jetty at Seringat-Kias.
What was done to create Seringat-Kias?

From the navigation charts, it seems all the reef edges (marked in green) on Lazarus Island and Pulau Seringat have been turned to vertical concrete walls. While the reefs within the large C-shaped artificial lagoon were probably buried to create a sandy beach. Fairburn Reef was probably a submerged reef flat like Cyrene Reefs and Beting Bemban Besar that we visited over the last few days. I have no idea what we lost when these reefs got buried.
From various reports, the reclamation and infrastructure cost $60 million, and another $120 million was spent to bring water, electricity, gas and telecommunication infrastructure from Sentosa to the islands. Thousands of cubic metres of sand were imported from Indonesia to make the huge C-shaped beach. The sand was checked for sandfly eggs so that visitors will be spared the insect's bites, which can be itchy. Massive landscaping was undertaken to simulate a natural environment so that it would look 'natural and wild'.

From Google Earth's historical views, this is what the area looked like on 18 Apr 2000.
A closer look at Pulau Seringat on 18 Apr 2000 before it was completely reclaimed.
Reclamation work as at 27 Mar 2001.
A lot of construction and reclamation has been done by 23 Jul 2001.
Most of the work seems completed by 16 Oct 2003.
The situation on 7 Jul 2004.
What it looks like on 13 Mar 2010.
Why was Seringat-Kias created?

In 2000, the plan was to offer visitors a Mediterranean resort-like setting, patterned after Italy's renowned vacation spot, Capri. Details later revealed included plans for a five-star 290-room hilltop hotel, a three-star 170-room beachfront hotel, 70 waterfront homes and 1,700 units of housing.

In 2006, massive landscaping was reported of the 1km reclaimed beach on Lazarus to5,000 lorry-loads of soil measuring two storeys high when piled up were brought in by barges, an entire coconut plantation in Malaysia was bought, about 1, 000 trees was trucked and shipped to the island. To meet the 36 cubic metres of water needed every day to keep the plants growing, a 400-sq-m-wide pond was created to collect rainwater and ground water tapped. on the southern islands of Pulau Seringat, Kias, St John's, Lazarus, Kusu and Sisters' islands.

In Dec 06, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) announced plans to develop the islands into a 'premium resort', a getaway for the rich. Other ideas include eco-tourism and cultural tourism, and even possibly a third casino in Singapore.

More details of plans for Seringat-Kias and Lazarus on Fate of the Southern Islands.

Ten years later, it seems that Seringat-Kias remains unused. It is not even promoted as a destination for locals and tourists.

Perhaps it was the rain, but it was rather depressing to visit Seringat-Kias today.

Wet and miserable, we didn't even step foot on Lazarus Island today.


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