Works at Pedra Branca to improve existing facilities, provide berthing for vessels and additional logistics, administrative support and communications facilities on the island are expected to start by the end of this year.
It will also include land reclamation of about 7ha, the Government said yesterday. The planned development is to enhance maritime safety and security and improve search and rescue capabilities in the area.
Land reclamation works will be carried out within 0.5 nautical mile of Pedra Branca and in Singapore territorial waters. "All works carried out will be in accordance with Singapore's domestic laws and international law," said a spokesman for the Ministry of National Development (MND), adding that they are expected to take several years to complete.
The island, located east of the mainland, now hosts amenities such as the Horsburgh lighthouse, a helipad, desalination plant, facilities for a vessel traffic information system, and a communications tower and rebroadcast station.
Land reclamation works will be undertaken by the Housing and Development Board - an agency under MND. Said the spokesman: "Generally, the development works will afford us greater awareness over the waters around Pedra Branca and allow us to respond more quickly to maritime safety and security threats."
She added that Singapore had considered undertaking these works as far back as the 1970s, but put plans on hold due to the legal dispute between Singapore and Malaysia regarding the sovereignty over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge.
In 2008, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) awarded sovereignty over Pedra Branca to Singapore. "The ICJ in its judgment expressly noted that Singapore had plans for reclamation at Pedra Branca,"said the spokesman. "With the discontinuance of Malaysia's application for revision and interpretation of the ICJ's judgment in 2018, Singapore will now proceed with these development works."
On the impact of reclamation on marine life and birds, the ministry said consultancy DHI Water and Environment had conducted an environmental impact assessment. "(DHI) had assessed that the development works will result in no significant impact to currents, sediment movement, water quality, navigation, human health and recreational activities," said the spokesman.
Coral habitats within the reclamation area will be affected, but a similar habitat of a larger area will be created around the newly reclaimed land, to offset the loss of the original habitat, said MND. This will be done by creating a sloping perimeter bund around the new area.
The ministry said coral relocation works have also been done to move a representative number of corals, with a focus on rare and less common corals, from within the project site and a buffer zone of 100m.
"Some of the harvested coral fragments... will be grown in a nursery for transplantation onto the new perimeter bund when construction is completed," she added.
"This and additional ecological engineering measures, such as roughening of the surface of the concrete block structures, will enhance the natural recruitment of corals to the new perimeter bund."
MND also said that the land reclamation will be done sensitively, taking into account the currents and tidal conditions, to ensure minimal sediment plumes are transported towards sensitive habitats.
The environmental impact assessment report, released yesterday, will be available for public viewing for four weeks. Interested parties may make an appointment with HDB to view the report in person.