More land, less sand: Singapore’s latest reclamation project

The new development - to be used for military exercises - will reclaim land using less sand, and introduces the city-state’s first sub-sea level polder.

Video: Housing & Development Board

By 2022, Singapore will have expanded by 810 hectares, making the republic’s land area 1 per cent bigger than its present size. The development will be in the north western end of Pulau Tekong, Singapore’s largest island, and will deploy a method that saves on sand.

The area, which is to be used for military exercises, will be made from a vast tract of reclaimed land that uses elevated dikes and Singapore’s first polder, a stretch of land that lies below sea level. 

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) is spearheading the project, which according to national development minister Lawrence Wong will add land twice the size of the district of Toa Payoh.

In an interview with the Straits Times last month, Wong said the project builds on Singapore’s capability to face the threats of climate change.

“We are low lying in Singapore. With this project, the experience that we gain in learning how to build dikes, in learning how to manage coastal areas, this will be very important for us as we deal with the threat of climate change,” he said.

HDB tapped RoyalHaskoning DHV and local consultancy Surbana Jurong to carry out a detailed study and engineering design for the polder, which features a mangrove nursery, a comprehensive water management system and a biodiversity conservation programme.

Traditionally, sand has been used to fill an area to be reclaimed above sea level, but this requires dredging sand to create islands or to forge waterways.

Dredging disturbs marine ecosystems and makes islands more vulnerable to rises in sea level, and Singapore has come in for criticism in the past for using sand taken for environmentally sensitive areas.

Innovative and cost effective reclamation solutions are needed to help countries tackle the challenge of rising sea levels as a result of global warming.

Loh Yan Hui, deputy CEO for infrastructure, Surbana Jurong

The Dutch polder technology involves building dikes around an area to be reclaimed and draining water from it, and has been used in the West for centuries.

“We’re proud to help build the future of Singapore. The polder approach has been used in the Netherlands for many centuries, but is still in its infancy in Southeast Asia and the rest of the world. This approach significantly reduces the volume of sand required as compared to the traditional method of land reclamation, and will ultimately result in savings on upfront construction costs,” said Mark van Zanten, senior project manager at Royal HaskoningDHV.

The Pulau Tekong development will use dikes that stretch 10 kilometers around the island and stand about 7 metres above the polder. According to RoyalHaskoning DHV, the dikes are designed to resist wave action for thousands of years.

A first for Singapore and Asia, the polder will feature a comprehensive water management system comprising a network of drains, a water body, and two pumping stations. The drains will channel the rainwater to the water body for storage. The central pumping station will circulate water in the drains to ensure good water quality. To keep the land dry, the drain will pump excess water back to the sea when the water body is full.

Loh Yan Hui, deputy CEO for infrastructure, Surbana Jurong, added, “Innovative and cost effective reclamation solutions are needed to help countries tackle the challenge of rising sea levels as a result of global warming”.

The project is estimated to start at the end of 2017 and is projected to be completed in 2022.

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