More than 700 coral colonies relocated successfully from Semakau Landfill to marine park

SINGAPORE - More than 700 coral colonies have been successfully relocated from a lagoon in Singapore's offshore landfill to the Sisters' Islands Marine Park, in a move to make expand the landfill and conserve the corals.

To mark the completion of the project, which began in September 2014, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, handed over the last corals from Semakau Landfill to a diver for transplantation on Tuesday evening.

The relocation project was carried out so the second phase of development works could start in the southern lagoon of the Semakau Landfill.

The corals there had grown naturally, but they had to be moved so Singapore could meet its waste disposal needs up to 2035 or beyond.

The site adjacent to the lagoon, where waste is now placed, is expected to be filled by 2016.

To protect the marine habitats, the National Environment Agency (NEA) had in March 2014 commissioned a coral reef survey of the area.This was led by National University of Singapore marine biologist Chou Loke Ming. Results had shown that 27 different types of coral, some rare, found in the zone below the low-tide mark, be earmarked for transplantation.

During one routine dive to harvest the coral in September 2014, for instance, marine biologists discovered a coral species known as the Neptune's Cup Sponge in the landfill lagoon. Thought to be extinct since 1908, it is the second specimen to be found in Singapore's waters, after the first re-discovery in 2011.

Corals found in the shallower inter-tidal zone of the lagoon were also harvested and transplanted by the National Parks Board to the Marine Park.

The NEA added that post-coral transplantation monitoring surveys at the marine park will also be carried out to monitor the survival and health of the transplanted corals. The surveys, which will be carried out over nine months, will also monitor the water quality and sediment conditions at the recipient sites.

Dr Balakrishnan said on Tuesday: "This project is an excellent example of how close collaboration between agencies can yield benefits for the wider public and Singapore as a whole. NEA will now be able to meet the nation's waste disposal needs while balancing the conservation of our natural habitats. Most important of all, the needs of our future are taken care of without compromising the environment that our future generation will inherit."