Budget debate: Coastal protection strategies in four areas to be ready by 2030

Potential measures to be examined include sea walls, polders and nature-based solutions like mangrove planting.
Potential measures to be examined include sea walls, polders and nature-based solutions like mangrove planting.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Republic will be looking into how more of its coastlines can be shored up against rising sea levels, with new protection strategies in four coastal areas to be completed by 2030.

The coastlines are along the City-East Coast stretch, Lim Chu Kang, Sungei Kadut, and around Jurong Island.

Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (MSE), gave Parliament this update on Thursday (March 4).

"This year, national water agency PUB and (industrial developer) JTC will embark on site-specific studies at the coastlines of City-East Coast and Jurong Island," she said. These two areas had been identified as being vulnerable to rising sea levels, due to their highly urbanised and industrialised nature.

Potential measures to be examined include sea walls, polders and nature-based solutions like mangrove planting, Ms Fu added.

As for the other two areas in the north-west - Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Kadut - PUB told The Straits Times that it plans to call the tenders for studies there this year. They are expected to commence in 2022, and be completed in 2027.

This north-western coast is a new area identified as vulnerable to the rising tides.

PUB said the area houses a few coastal reservoirs, for example, Kranji Reservoir, and other key assets like the Woodlands Checkpoint. Moreover, Sungei Kadut is also currently home to a number of industries - such as for timber, furniture, construction and waste management - with future plans to develop the area into an agri-tech hub.

Human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation are putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, trapping heat on the planet.

As oceans warm, water expands, contributing to sea level rise. Rising temperatures are also causing ice sheets to melt, further nudging up sea levels.

But climate change will also lead to erratic rainfall patterns - including bouts of more intense rainfall, which can contribute to flooding.

Ms Fu said PUB will be developing the Coastal-Inland Flood Model this year to manage both inland and coastal flooding risks.

"This computational model will simulate flood risk events and evaluate effectiveness of coastal infrastructure designs against different climatic scenarios," she said during the debate over her ministry's budget.

"This will equip PUB with capabilities to plan and implement adaptation measures."

On top of that, PUB will invest another $1.36 billion in drainage works over the next five years, she said. This comes after $2 billion worth on investment in this area over the last decade. Ten projects will commence this year, Ms Fu said, including drainage works at Seletar North Link and Serangoon Avenues 2 and 3.

Feeding a nation

During the debate, Mr Desmond Tan, Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) also said Singapore is doing more on the food security front. 

A new $60 million Agri-Food Cluster Transformation Fund will be established to help farmers here better harness technology. This will replace the existing Agriculture Productivity Fund, which expired in 2020.

“The new fund has been designed with several improvements. It will better cater to farms of different scales and development needs, from start-up to growth and expansion,” said Mr Tan.

“It will also have a higher co-funding quantum and wider scope in support of farms that adopt advanced farming systems which improve productivity and resource efficiency,” he added.

For instance, those farming leafy vegetables, food fish and hen eggs can now receive co-funding of up to $4.5 million for farming technology – up from $2 million previously. 

Farmers looking to set up new sites or retrofit indoor spaces in industrial sites can also receive co-funding of up to $1.5 million to defray infrastructure and building costs. This was not available under the previous fund. 

The new fund will also feature an expanded co-funding scope so farmers can tap the money for use beyond just boosting yield, but also to implement technology to reduce pollution and waste, for instance. 

It will also cover farms’ expenses related to the upcoming Clean and Green Standard to be launched later this year, such as the purchase of e quipment and certification-related fees. 

“This standard is a mark of assurance that the produce is free from synthetic pesticides and grown in a clean farming environment using resource-efficient and sustainable practices,” Mr Tan said.

In a statement, SFA chief executive Lim Kok Thai said the government recognises that farming technology would typically require higher upfront capital investment in infrastructure and technological systems.

“This (new fund) will further support our farms as they shift towards harnessing technology to overcome our land and resource constraints, bringing us closer to our 30 by 30 goal,” he said. 

“Not only will this contribute towards our food security, it will create good jobs such as agriculture and aquaculture specialist roles for our people,” Mr Lim added.

The 30 by 30 goal refers to Singapore’s target of meeting 30 per cent of its nutritional needs with local produce – up from less than 10 per cent today.

Fish protein is an important pillar of meeting this goal, said SFA. 

There are currently 110 sea-based farms, 108 of which are in northern waters. Two are located in the Singapore Strait south of the mainland. 

Mr Tan said SFA will launch new sea space tenders on leases within the next few years to provide farms with greater certainty on the use of sea spaces.

Details will be announced when the tenders are launched over the next few years.