Pulau Tekong land reclamation



The current island of Pulau Tekong was originally composed of two distinct islands, Pulau Tekong Besar – the biggest natural offshore island in Singapore and commonly referred to as just Pulau Tekong – and the much smaller Pulau Tekong Kecil.1 Situated at the northeastern coast of the mainland,2 the first reclamation project on the islands was carried out in the 1980s. Reclamation work is still ongoing and, upon completion, Pulau Tekong Kechil would be totally merged with the larger island. Pulau Tekong has been home to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Basic Military Training Centre since 1999.3 In early 2002, the Pulau Tekong reclamation project was disputed by Malaysia,4 which brought the case to the International Tribunal Court.5

History
Records show that Malays first began inhabiting the Pulau Tekong islands from around 1857. In 1957, there were 4,169 residents there, comprising predominantly Chinese.6 The islands were once home to more than 10 Malay kampongs (villages), among them Kampong Pahang, Kampong Selabin, Kampong Pasir and Kampong Batu Koyok.7 All the islanders had been resettled on the mainland by the 1980s.8

Description
The first reclamation was carried out between 1981 and 1985 at the south of Pulau Tekong Besar, and involved the reclamation of 540 ha of the shallow foreshore and seabed.9 The project, which cost about S$620 million, used 33 million cu m of dredged material obtained from Changi offshore areas and imported from Indonesia.10 The reclaimed area was subsequently used by the Ministry of Defence as a training site for the SAF.11

The Concept Plan 1991 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) earmarked parts of Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong for high-density housing to accommodate a higher population in the future.12 The URA projected that the islands would be linked to the mainland by the Mass Rapid Transit system.13

The following year, it was announced that the islands would be enlarged and that reclamation work would began in the next 5 years. On 16 January 1992, 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 the two islands. Eventually 2,480 ha would be reclaimed in the area. The Housing and Development Board (HDB) would undertake the reclamation project at an estimated cost of S$1.4 billion.14 Preliminary and investigative works were expected to be completed by June 1994 and reclamation to start near the end of 1995.15

The Ministry of National Development (MND), however, 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 subsequently proposed a revised area of 3,310 ha of foreshore and seabed at Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong, and this was approved by Parliament on 22 February 2000. The reclamation scheme was slated to commence in October 2000.16 By 2002, Pulau Tekong measured 2,368.7 ha.17 Reclamation of Pulau Tekong is still ongoing as at 2016 to enlarge the Pulau Tekong Besar (now referred to as just Pulau Tekong). When completed, Pulau Tekong Kechil would be completely merged with the larger island.18

Objections from Malaysia
From February 2002, Malaysian media reports of local politicians alleging the harm of the Pulau Tekong reclamation work to Johor began to surface.19 Malaysia was concerned that the reclamation might encroach upon Malaysian territories or shift the boundary between Singapore and Malaysia.20 In addition, Malaysia also raised concerns of the reclamation affecting the shipping lane to Pasir Gudang Port as the shipping lane was now narrower and shallower. Other issues included an increase of current flow in the Johor Straits and thus resulting in flooding and affecting the fishermen’s catches.21

Then-Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan refuted Malaysia’s claims, and maintained that the Pulau Tekong reclamation was carried out within Singapore territory. Mah also stated that the Singapore Maritime Port Authority (MPA) regularly monitored the siltation levels within the shipping lane to ensure that the channel remains deep enough for navigation. Hydraulic modelling studies had also been carried out to assess the impact of reclamation on currents, tidal flows and water quality, which indicated that the reclamation would not adversely impact the surrounding waters.22

The matter was eventually brought before the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea (ITLOS). Malaysia failed to get Singapore to stall works through ITLOS. At the end of 2003, however, 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 then said that these assurances had been given to Malaysia before Malaysia brought the case to ITLOS.23 On 26 April 2005, both countries signed a full and final settlement after negotiations.24



Author

Marsita Omar



References
1. Chen, P. S., & Lee, L. S. (2012). A retrospect on the dust-laden history: The past and present of Tekong Island in Singapore. Singapore: World Scientific, p. 1. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705 CHE)
2. National Library of Singapore. (1950). Map 1 Singapore [General Map]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
3. Ministry of Defence. (1999, August 17). Opening of Basic Military Training Centre in Pulau Tekong [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, August 24 from Ministry of Defence website: https://www.mindef.gov.sg/imindef/press_room/official_releases/nr/1999/aug/17aug99_nr.html
4. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (2002, April 5). Land Reclamation off Pulau Tekong (Impact on Malaysia) (Vol. 74). Singapore: [s.n.], cols. 465–471. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)
5. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (2003, October 16). Reclamation Works at Tuas and Pulau Tekong (Malaysia’s legal challenge) (Vol. 76). Singapore: [s.n.], col. 3113. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)
6. Chen, P. S., & Lee, L. S. (2012). A retrospect on the dust-laden history: The past and present of Tekong Island in Singapore. Singapore: World Scientific, pp. 10, 34. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705 CHE)
7. How Pulau Tekong derives its name. (1985, January 21). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chen, P. S., & Lee, L. S. (2012). A retrospect on the dust-laden history: The past and present of Tekong Island in Singapore. Singapore: World Scientific, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705 CHE)
8. Chen, P. S., & Lee, L. S. (2012). A retrospect on the dust-laden history: The past and present of Tekong Island in Singapore. Singapore: World Scientific, p. 82. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705 CHE)
9. Chia, L. S., Chou, L. M., & Khan, H. (Eds). (1988). The coastal environmental profile of Singapore. Manila: International Center for Living Aquatic Resources, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 333.917095957 CHI)
10. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (1981, February 20). Pulau Tekong Besar (reclamation) (Vol. 40). Singapore: [s.n.], cols. 289–290. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN); Chia, L. S., Chou, L. M., & Khan, H. (Eds). (1988). The coastal environmental profile of Singapore. Manila: International Center for Living Aquatic Resources, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 333.917095957 CHI)
11. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (1981, February 20). Pulau Tekong Besar (reclamation) (Vol. 40). Singapore: [s.n.], cols. 289–290. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN); Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (1988, March 28). Reclaimed land at Pulau Tekong Besar (development plans) (Vol. 50). Singapore: [s.n.], cols. 1495. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)
12. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (1992, January 6). Planning and Developing a city of excellence (Vol. 59). Singapore: [s.n.], col. 50. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN); Urban Redevelopment Authority. (n.d.). Concept Plan 1991. Retrieved 2016, August 24 from URA website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/concept-plan.aspx?p1=View-Concept-Plan&p2=Concept-Plan1991
13. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore). (1991). Living the next lap: Towards a tropical city of excellence. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 16. (Call no.: RSING q307.36095957 LIV)
14. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (1992, January 16). Reclamation (Pulau Ubin/Pulau Tekong Kechil) (Vol. 59). Singapore: [s.n.], cols. 374–375. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)
15. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (1993, August 31). Reclamation at Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong Kechil (progress) (Vol. 61). Singapore: [s.n.], col. 524. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN); Land reclamation at Ubin, Tekong by ’95. (1993, January 1). The Business Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (2000, February 22). Reclamation at Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong (Vol. 71). Singapore: [s.n.], col. 1049. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)
17. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2002). Singapore facts and pictures. Singapore: Ministry of Culture, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SMCFFS-[HIS]) 
18. Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. (2016, April 2). Reclamation work at Pulau Tekong [Port Marine Notices No. 30 of 2016]. Retrieved 2016, August 24 from MPA Singapore website: http://www.mpa.gov.sg/web/portal/home/port-of-singapore/circulars-and-notices/detail/d4dd9384-fbf3-41fa-a616-e1b1753d52e0
19. Johor MB claims S’pore reclamation narrowing port route. (2002, February 27). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (2002, April 5). Land Reclamation off Pulau Tekong (Impact on Malaysia) (Vol. 74). Singapore: [s.n.], col. 466. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)
21. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (2002, April 5). Land reclamation off Pulau Tekong (impact on Malaysia) (Vol. 74). Singapore: [s.n.], col. 466. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)
22. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (2002, April 5). Land reclamation off Pulau Tekong (impact on Malaysia) (Vol. 74). Singapore: [s.n.], cols. 466–467. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)
23. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (2003, October 16). Points of agreement between the governments of Singapore and Malaysia (status) (Vol. 76). Singapore: [s.n.], cols. 3113–3116. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)
24. Asad Latif. (2005, May 17). Minister optimistic about resolving S’pore-KL disputes. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 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
Singapore offshore islands
Geography>>Geographical Areas and Countries>>Singapore Offshore Islands
Reclamation of land--Singapore
Law and government>>National development>>Land use