New reclamation method to create bigger Pulau Tekong

Extra land to be used for military training will free up space on main island for other uses

A plot of land the size of two Toa Payoh towns will be added to the north-western tip of Pulau Tekong using a land reclamation method. PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

A plot of land the size of two Toa Payoh towns will be added to the north-western tip of Pulau Tekong using a land reclamation method that is new to Singapore.

The 810ha space, to be used for military training, will be created by empoldering - a method which involves building a dyke around the area to be reclaimed and draining water from it.

Compared with the traditional technique of filling a water body with sand, this method is expected to cut construction costs and the amount of sand required, and could be used for other projects in future.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told reporters during a site visit yesterday that Singapore is "always in need of more land".

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"This particular expansion, it's going to be used for Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) training. But the needs for land continue to grow, whether it's for military, for housing, for commercial uses," he added. "We are always looking at options to expand. And by expanding Tekong, providing SAF with more space for their training needs, which are growing, we can free up land on the main Singapore island for other developmental purposes."

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Singapore has been studying the empoldering method for some time, he said. It has visited the Netherlands, where the practice is prevalent, and consulted experts from the country. The technique will create a low-lying tract of land, known as a polder, about 1.2m below sea level.

Water levels in the polder will be controlled by drains and pumps, and a 10km-long dyke standing about 6m above sea level will buffer the reclaimed area from the sea.

"This is really a project not just about expanding our physical space but also about building up capabilities and making ourselves a more resilient nation in the longer term," Mr Wong said, referring to challenges such as disruptions in Singapore's sand supply and rising sea levels due to climate change.

"The experience that we gain in learning how to build dykes, in learning how to manage coastal areas, this will be very important for us as we deal with the threat of climate change in the longer term."

Mr Wong said empoldering is expected to lead to "significant" cost and sand savings, but did not reveal any figures. He added that he would "not rule out" adopting empoldering for future reclamation works here.

The Housing Board, the appointed agent for the project, will call for tenders by the end of this year. Construction will commence at the end of next year, and the reclamation is slated for completion around 2022.

Thereafter, the Defence Ministry will maintain the polder plot, while the drainage system, dyke, water pumping stations and canals will be maintained by national water agency PUB. The land will also come with 21km of roads - the length of East Coast Parkway - and 29km of drains.

HDB said an environmental study carried out found the polder's impact on surrounding marine life and the environment would be "minimal". Surrounding areas with mangroves and other plant life will be conserved and protected.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2016, with the headline New reclamation method to create bigger Pulau Tekong. Subscribe