Pulau Tekong land reclamation


 

 

Pulau Tekong Besar was the biggest natural offshore island in Singapore. It is situated at the northeastern coast of the mainland. There was Pulau Tekong Kecil which is a much smaller island merged with Pulau Tekong Besar in the mid 1990s. The first reclamation works at Pulau Tekong took place between 1976 and 1979. Further reclamations took place between 1981 and 1985. More reclamation works were proposed in 1992 but in 2002, the area to be reclaimed at the foreshore and seabed at Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong was revised from 657 ha in 1992 to 3,310 ha. However in early 2002, the reclamation project was disputed by Malaysia. Malaysia brought the case to the International Tribunal Court.

History
In 1956, there were about 4,000 inhabitants who were mostly Malays on Pulau Tekong. It was home to about ten Malay kampungs and refugees from the civil war in Pahang, Kelantan and the Riau islands and even sultans for over 400 years. There were shophouses, mosques, churches, a Buddhist temple and an old British prison. The island possessed pleasant rural environment with coconut, rubber and fruit tree plantations. Today, it is one big military training centre. The islanders had been resettled on the mainland.

Description
The first land reclamation on Tekong occurred between 1976 and 1979. The project was undertaken by the Port of Authority of Singapore (PSA) adding 174 ha of land to Pulau Tekong Besar at a cost of $39 million. PSA reclaimed a further 540 ha of the shallow foreshore and seabed of the southern part of the island between 1981 and 1985. They used 33 million cubic metres of dredged material obtained from Changi offshore areas and also that imported from Indonesia. The project cost $620 million. The reclaimed area is reserved for future industrial use but its immediate use is as a training site for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

In Feb 1991, the government announced its Concept Plans that earmarked Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong for their high-density housing and light industries. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) projected that if the population growth of Singapore went beyond 4 million, the islands would be linked to the mainland by the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT). The following year, it was announced that the islands would be enlarged and that reclamation works would began in the next 5 years. On 16 January 1992, the Parliament approved the reclamation of 657 ha of the foreshore and seabed off Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong Kechil. It also approved the construction of a low land bridge connecting these two islands. The project was estimated to cost approximately $1.4 billion.

The 657 ha was part of 2,480 ha that would eventually be reclaimed in the area. The Housing Development Board (HDB) would carry out the reclamation at an estimated cost of $1.4 billion. Preliminary works and investigation works were done in the first 2 years but later MND directed HDB and URA to review the reclamation profile with the objective of increasing the amount of land that could be reclaimed to optimise land use. HDB proposed a revised area of 3,310 ha of foreshore and seabed at Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong which was approved by parliament on 22 February 2000. The reclamation scheme commenced in October 2000. The estimated cost exceeds $3 billion.

Objections from Malaysia
Since February 2002, the Malaysian media started reporting about the harm that the reclamation works at Tekong were causing Johor. State politicians joined in the fray. They said that Singapore could have notified or consulted Malaysia about the works. They mentioned that the reclamation was an encroachment to the Malaysian territories, affecting the livelihood of about 100 fishermen as it degraded water quality, harmed marine life in Malaysian waters, restricted and narrowed the route to the Pasir Gudang port and discouraged ships from calling there. It also increased current flow in the Johor Straits causing flooding in Johor and affecting fishermen's catch.

Singapore refuted their claims and called upon Malaysia to substantiate them. Singapore maintained that the works had not encroached Malaysian territorial waters and since it was done within Singapore territory there was no need to consult them. Singapore maintained that the Maritime Port Authority (MPA) regularly monitored siltation levels within the shipping lane and confirmed that the works had not made it shallower. Hydraulic modeling studies confirmed that currents, tidal flows and water quality were not adversely affected. There was also much disagreement about a non-descript areas of Area D and Point 20.

The matter could not be resolved and the case was brought to the Order of the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea (ITLOS).  Malaysia was not able to get Singapore to stall works through ITLOS. However, at the end of 2003, ITLOS prescribed that both parties cooperate and consult on various measures including establishing a group of independent experts to conduct a study to determine the effects of Singapore's reclamation and to propose measures to deal with adverse effects, if any. Singapore had said that these assurances had been given to Malaysia even before Malaysia brought the case to ITLOS. By early 2005, both countries reached an agreement through negotiations and amicable settlements.

 

Author
Marsita Omar

 

Reference
Chia, L. S., Chou, L. M., & Khan, H. (Eds). (1988). The coastal environmental profile of Singapore (pp. 44). Manila: International Center for Living Aquatic Resources.
(Call no.: RSING 333.917095957 CHI)

Edwards, N. & Keys, P. (1996). Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (p. 78). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: R SING 915.957 EDW - [TRA])

Lim, L. (2002, March 30). Bigger Singapore from sea and swamp. The Straits Times. Retrieved 4 March 2011 from NewspaperSG.

Long-term development plans for Tekong and Ubin revealed. (1991, February 25). The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved March 2, 2006, from Factiva database.

Plans to link Pulau Ubin, Tekong. (1992, January 10). The Business Times. Retrieved March 2, 2006, from Factiva database.

Reclamation of Tekong, Ubin may cost $1.39b. (1992, January 17). The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved March 2, 2006, from Factiva database.

Singapore-Malaysia land reclamation agreement avoids long-drawn arbitration. (2005, January 15). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved March 2, 2006, from Factiva database.

Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Official Report (20 February 1981) [vol 40] at cols 289-290 (E. W. Barker, Minister for Law and Science and Technology).
(Call no.:RSING 328.5957 SIN)

Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Official Report (6 January 1992) [vol 59] at col 49 (S. Dhanabalan, Minister for National Development).
(Call no.:RSING 328.5957 SIN)

Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Official Report (6 January 1992) [vol 59] at cols 374-375 (Prof. S. Jayakumar, Minister for Law).
(Call no.:RSING 328.5957 SIN)

Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Official Report (31 August 1993) [vol 61] at col 524 (Mr Lim Hng Kiang, Minister of State for National Development; Mr Teo Chong Tee).
(Call no.:RSING 328.5957 SIN)

Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Official Report (5 April 2002) [vol 74] at cols 465-468 (Mr Mah Bow Tan, Minister for National Development; Dr Ong Chit Chung; Dr Teo Ho Pin; Mr S. Iswaran; Mr Zainul Abidin Rasheed; Mrs Lim Hwee Hua; Ms Irene Ng Phek Hoong).
(Call no.:RSING 328.5957 SIN)

Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Official Report (16 October 2003) [vol 76] at col 3112 (Mr Arthur Fong; Ms Irene Ng Phek Hoong (Tampines); Prof. S Jayakumar, Minister for Law).
(Call no.:RSING 328.5957 SIN)

Tan, T. H. (2003, October 10). The low-down on Area D. The Straits Times. Retrieved 4 March 2011 from NewspaperSG.

 

The information in this article is valid as at 2006 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Subject
Geography>>Geographical Areas and Countries>>Singapore Offshore Islands
Reclamation of land--Singapore
Law and government>>National development>>Land use

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