28 November 2023

Technical studies into 'Long Island' off East Coast to begin

Singapore to start technical studies into 800ha 'Long Island' off East Coast. 
Submit your feedback and sign up for engagement sessions here (from  Long Island project at https://go.gov.sg/Long-Island)

The government will be carrying out technical studies over the next five years to explore the feasibility of Long Island. At the same time, the authorities will also be engaging the public on plans for Long Island. After technical studies are completed, the authorities will engage the public on the design and masterplan for Long Island.

Channel NewAsia 28 Nov 2023

SINGAPORE: Singapore is starting technical studies for a decades-long project to integrate coastal protection measures with future reclamation plans on its east coast.

The "Long Island" concept could involve around 800ha of reclaimed land - nearly the size of 1,142 football fields - and potentially provide more opportunities for waterfront living and jobs.

The reclaimed island, situated at East Coast Park's shoreline, would be about twice the land area of Marina Bay, and would create an enclosed waterbody in front of East Coast Park, transforming it into a freshwater reservoir.

Minister for National Development Desmond Lee announced the start of technical studies into the concept during a site-enhancement event at East Coast Park on Tuesday (Nov 28), where he planted a tree to kickstart a new 15km nature trail across the park.

He spoke about the need for coastal protection measures in low-lying Singapore.

"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," said Mr Lee, noting that people wanted to retain the unimpeded access to the waterfront.

The minister said Long Island would create opportunities for future generations of Singaporeans.

"They could build homes, create jobs, develop services and amenities that they need, and add around 20km of new coastal and reservoir parks, extending from the current East Coast Park. This will triple the length of the existing waterfront area along East Coast Park today."

Studies have projected a rise in mean sea level of up to 1m by 2100. Combined with the possible high tides and storm surges, the sea level could rise by 4m to 5m, threatening Singapore's shorelines.

Since 2021, Singapore has progressively conducted site-specific studies for different segments of its coastline. In September, it launched its first research centre dedicated to strengthening local capabilities and expertise in coastal protection and flood management.

Around one-third of Singapore is less than 5m above mean sea level including East Coast Park, a recreational area around the size of 180ha which sees 7.5 million visits annually, according to the National Parks Board.

The effects of high sea levels at the park - Singapore's largest park with a span of about 13km - are already being felt. In 2018 and in January this year, swathes of the park were flooded due to rain and high tide.

The authorities had studied the possibility of a 3m-high sea wall along the entire waterfront of East Coast Park, from Marina East to Tanah Merah.

These would be accompanied by 12 tidal gates and pumping stations along each of the existing outlet drains to keep the sea out and to pump rainwater out when heavy rain coincides with high tide.

Given the current use of East Coast Park for recreational activities, however, these measures would limit the current access to the beach and cause disruption to park users during constructions, noted Mr Lee.

The number of tidal gates and pumping stations needed would come at the expense of a substantial portion of existing park space - around 15 football fields if the 12 tidal gates and pumping stations were installed, said Mr Lee.

"In essence, this approach means that we implement coastal protection along the existing East Coast Park, but lose significant portions of the park and recreational use of the coastline," said the minister.

The authorities settled on Long Island as a more optimal solution. The idea was raised by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the National Day Rally in 2019, and showcased at the Urban Redevelopment Authority's long-term plan review exhibition last year.

Long Island would be reclaimed at a higher level to protect against sea level rise. The island would also create an enclosed waterbody, "preserving the waterfront character of the original East Coast Park", said Mr Lee.

The new freshwater reservoir would increase water supply and would also reduce the number of tidal gates and pumping stations to two for flood management in the East Coast area.

Apart from coastal protection measures, the reclaimed island could host additional recreational facilities, such as canoeing and dragon-boating on the reservoir.

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said in a Facebook post after the announcement that the authorities had gathered views and suggestions through PUB-led dialogue Our Coastal Conversation before deciding on Long Island.

She added that the government has received innovative proposals from students through PUB’s ‘Living with the Rising Seas’ ideas competition earlier this year, which will be considered for Long Island.

The new island would add around 20km of new coastal and reservoir parks to the existing East Coast Park.

The government will be carrying out technical studies over the next five years to explore the feasibility of Long Island, said Mr Lee.

The studies, to begin in 2024, involve extensive environmental and engineering studies to see if the conceptual reclamation profile is feasible, and for the authorities to formulate innovative and cost-effective nature-based solutions.

At the same time, the authorities will also be engaging the public, such as nature and recreational interest groups and businesses in plans for Long Island.

After technical studies are completed, the authorities will engage the public on the design and masterplan for Long Island, said Mr Lee.

Long Island to be reclaimed off East Coast could add 800ha of land, create Singapore’s 18th reservoir
Ng Keng Gene and Shabana Begum Straits Times 27 Nov 2023

SINGAPORE – Three tracts of land could be reclaimed off East Coast Park in the coming decades, creating about 800ha of land for new homes and other amenities, as well as a new reservoir.

Called the Long Island, these land tracts – collectively about twice the size of Marina Bay – are Singapore’s response to the threat of rising sea levels and inland flooding in the East Coast area. Land in the area is largely lower than 5m above the mean sea level, the extent that sea levels are projected to rise to by the end of this century if extreme high tides coincide with storm surges.

On Nov 28, National Development Minister Desmond Lee announced that public agencies will carry out technical studies for the Long Island project over five years, starting from early 2024.

Over the next few years, members of the public will be consulted for their ideas and suggestions for the project, which will take several decades to plan, design and develop.

The current plan is for three elongated tracts of land to be reclaimed in the area, extending from Marina East to Tanah Merah. The easternmost land tract will start from Tanah Merah, while the westernmost tract will be an extension of Marina East. Between these two tracts, a third tract will be reclaimed.

A large tidal gate and pumping station will be built in between each new land mass. These will control the water level in a new reservoir bordered by East Coast Park and the new land masses, and, in the process, reduce flood risks in the East Coast area.

National water agency PUB said the reclamation project is likely to create Singapore’s 18th reservoir.

Like the gate at Marina Barrage, the two gates at the new reservoir in East Coast will open to release excess storm water into the sea during heavy rain when the tide is low. At high tide, the pumps will be used instead to release the storm water.

Mr Lee said the new reservoir can also be used for water activities such as canoeing and dragon-boating.

Besides offering flood protection and increasing Singapore’s freshwater supply, the project will help meet future development and recreation needs, said Mr Lee.

Waterfront homes are expected to be built on the reclaimed land, along with amenities and industrial facilities.

About 20km of new coastal and reservoir parks could be added, tripling the length of waterfront parks in the East Coast area, he said.

Plans for reclamation off East Coast were first unveiled in 1991, as part of URA’s Concept Plan. It was envisioned then that a series of reclaimed islands would provide waterfront housing and leisure opportunities.

At the 2019 National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said reclaiming a series of islands offshore and linking them up with barrages could protect existing low-lying areas and create a freshwater reservoir.

URA showcased a possible concept for reclamation works at its long-term plan review exhibition in 2022.

In his speech on Nov 28, Mr Desmond Lee said the Government has been studying various coastal protection options, including building a sea wall up to 3m tall that would stretch from Marina East to Tanah Merah. 
The wall would be accompanied by 12 sets of tidal gates and pumping stations – one set at each of the 12 existing outlet drains along East Coast. The gates would stop seawater from flowing inland during high tides, while the pumping stations would pump storm water from the drains into the sea when the gates are closed.

Mr Lee said that this option is technically feasible, but not ideal for East Coast Park as large stretches of the park will have to be closed to the public when building the seawall. When completed, it will permanently limit park users’ access to the waterfront for recreation and sports.

The 12 tidal gates and pumping stations would take up a lot of space within East Coast Park – about the area of 15 football fields – resulting in the loss of existing greenery and recreational facilities.

Mr Lee noted that members of the public hope to retain unimpeded access to the waterfront, as well as preserve the heritage and recreation spaces along the coast.

A more optimal solution is to integrate coastal protection measures with reclamation plans for the area, he added.

More information on the Long Island project is available at https://go.gov.sg/Long-Island

Crucial to minimise inevitable harm to marine environment if Long Island reclamation project proceeds: Experts
The decades-long project off East Coast Park could involve the reclamation of around 800ha of land – twice the size of the downtown Marina Bay area. Louisa Tang Channel NewsAsia 1 Dec 2023

SINGAPORE: With decades of reclamation works having previously devastated marine life along Singapore's eastern coast, environmental experts told CNA it is crucial to make certain that construction on the “Long Island” reclaimed site would not significantly impact sensitive marine habitats like coral reefs.

Experts also stressed the need for the government to engage nature researchers, non-governmental organisations and the public from an early stage in order to protect biodiversity and prevent loss of habitat at East Coast Park, as well as the nearby Southern Islands.

This comes after Singapore on Tuesday (Nov 28) announced plans to begin technical studies for the decades-long project off East Coast Park which could reclaim around 800ha of land – twice the size of the downtown Marina Bay area.

The studies, to begin in 2024, will involve extensive environmental and engineering studies to see if the conceptual reclamation profile is feasible, and for the authorities to formulate innovative and cost-effective nature-based solutions.

The Long Island plan is meant to protect the current coastal zone and inland areas at East Coast from being inundated by seawater in the future.

Studies have projected a rise in mean sea level of up to 1m by 2100. Combined with possible high tides and storm surges, sea levels could rise by 4m to 5m, threatening low-lying Singapore's shorelines.

The effects of high sea levels at East Coast Park – Singapore's largest park with a span of about 13km – are already being felt. In 2018 and in January this year, swathes of the park were flooded due to rain and high tide.

POTENTIAL IMPACT The process of reclaiming land from sea “would certainly lead to the decline of marine species living in the sea and potentially habitats around it”, said Associate Professor Huang Danwei from the National University of Singapore (NUS).

For example, half of coastal wetlands in China have been lost to land reclamation.

The deputy head of Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, whose research interests include coral reef ecology and conversation, cautioned that Singapore needs to strike a balance between coastal protection and marine life protection.

“Certainly, lives, livelihoods and properties are at stake, but terrestrial and coastal ecosystems that may be affected by the seawater inundation in the next few decades could also be impacted,” added Assoc Prof Huang.

“These should be balanced by the potential impact on sea life directly at the areas of reclamation and also marine ecosystems adjacent to these areas.”

Land can be reclaimed by adding material such as rocks, soil, and cement to an area of water. It can also be achieved by draining submerged wetlands or similar biomes.

Nature Society (Singapore)'s chairman Stephen Beng concurred that reclamation works on Long Island will "most definitely" disrupt ecosystems and lead to a loss of habitat and biodiversity.

He noted that Singapore lost 60 per cent of its coral reefs, which “support a greater diversity of life than any place on earth”, over the past few decades due to reclamation and development works.

A vast majority of these reclamation works have happened along the eastern coast, such as the East Coast Reclamation Scheme that was launched in 1966. It was completed 20 years later with a total of 1,525ha of land reclaimed.

With the Long Island project slated to be a similarly decades-long one, more sediment and pollutants could end up in the waters. This could smother corals and seagrasses and impact the Southern Islands, which is home to most of Singapore's remaining coral reefs, said Dr Jani Tanzil, facility director of St John's Island National Marine Laboratory.

Aside from the past loss of coral reefs, she noted that reefs in Singapore already exist "in marginal conditions where light penetration is limited".

"I'm worried that if the land reclamation works are not managed properly, we may see our reefs having to endure even lower light conditions for decades to come, and further truncation of our reefs to even shallower vertical distribution," Dr Jani added.

NUS biological scientist N Sivasothi also pointed out that the Long Island project will eliminate existing marine habitats, given the plans to create an enclosed waterbody – eventually, a freshwater reservoir – in front of East Coast Park.

Nevertheless, he said these marine communities are not as mature as those on Chek Jawa Wetlands or Pulau Ubin.

Mr Beng, who is also chairperson of the Friends of the Marine Park ground-led initiative, added: “We’ve … seen that life on our reefs and shores does return when given a chance, though some changes and losses cannot be reversed such as predator-prey relationships, invasive species, resource competition.

“Our remaining reefs and living shores could disappear within a generation under the threats of climate change and coastal development."

DESIGN WITH NATURE FIRST IN MIND The experts championed the idea of designing structures at Long Island with a nature-first approach, including artificial reef structures that can beef up coastal defence and biodiversity protection.

Mr Beng further suggested providing sufficient depth for mangroves, slopes of reefs, and allowing the natural accumulation of sediment for sandy beaches and rocky shores.

Professor Benjamin Horton, director of the Earth Observatory of Singapore, also pointed to "working with nature" concepts where developments are designed based on natural principles that mimic nature.

Marine forces – such as waves and tides – should be used to maintain high-quality developments like artificial beaches, lagoons, wetlands and mangroves, rather than being viewed as something to protect against during extreme events, he added.

"Coastal environments are transient, continuously reshaped by the natural forces of waves, tides, surges, erosion and deposition. To be sustainable, the Long Island developments must be designed and implemented with a clear understanding and respect for local natural processes," Prof Horton noted.

Mr Beng cautioned that Singapore must not "become comfortable with the ability to reclaim and restore", despite coming far to include conservation considerations in development plans.

Time must be given between work phases for the environment to recover, and the government must also continuously monitor environmental and social impacts over a wider area, he said.

This is especially because the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park – part of the Southern Islands – will be exposed to much of the risks during reclamation and construction works, and may also face changes in water quality and flow.

“Nature is most resilient to disturbances when it’s left natural,” Mr Beng noted.

“If climate adaptation and future development comes at a greater cost to nature, then that could also mean an unrecoverable expense for all of us.”

Whether or not Singapore's environment will benefit from having another island, where flora and fauna can flourish, is up in the air for now.

Assoc Prof Huang said a comprehensive environmental impact assessment is needed to determine the biodiversity costs.

He added: "An artificially created land area with additional coastal space is not the same as natural ecosystems that have been around for thousands of years in terms of biodiversity and their natural functions and services, even if the island might be designed to host biodiversity with an abundance of greening efforts."

"URGENT RESPONSIBILITY" TO ADDRESS SEA LEVEL RISE Mr Sivasothi pointed out some key differences in the preparations and design for the Long Island project compared to reclamation works from decades ago.

For example, there is a desire to integrate relevant terrestrial and marine nature areas with the project. Much more is also known about the restoration ecology of terrestrial and marine environments from both local and global studies, which means Singapore can “ensure the facilitated establishment of nature areas unlike before”, added Mr Sivasothi.

He also spoke of being heartened to see during a recent engagement that the push to protect and integrate biodiversity in the Long Island project not only came from members of nature groups, but from many other participants.

“The responsibility to address sea level rise is a critical and urgent responsibility of this time,” Mr Sivasothi pointed out.

“An island state like Singapore with high population density and no hinterland is much more vulnerable than most other countries, and global action to address global warming deadlines is always behind schedule. So, it is welcome that we initiate plans to prepare the country.”

Prof Horton said that land reclamation can be done safely and with minimal – even positive – impact through appropriate site selection, master planning and support studies.

"It is also key to engage with stakeholders to get their views, concerns and expectations. Creating Long Island will take time," he added.


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