Stretching Our Land Options – Going Upward, Downward and Seaward

Land is a critical factor in any country’s development, more so for a little red dot like Singapore.  Hence, we are always looking at different ways to stretch our land options.

One strategy is to go upward. We are used to high-rise living in Singapore. But there are other vertical applications. For example, we are deploying solar panels on HDB rooftops and going for vertical farms.

In the new Tengah town, we are doing centralised cooling systems, with the chillers on the rooftops.  This is more energy efficient than split-unit air-conditioning systems in every home, and will also help to reduce the urban heat island effect that comes with existing air-conditioning usage.

The vertical strategy is also about optimising existing spaces, especially where we have yet to maximise the full development potential.

Paya Lebar Airbase is one such example. The Airbase is located near urbanised areas and imposes height restrictions on the buildings.

Imagine the potential once the Airbase is relocated. We can have new and higher developments, not just in Paya Lebar, but also in the surrounding areas.

Another strategy is to go downward or underground.  We already have underground utility systems, including our power grid, telco lines and a district cooling system in Marina Bay.

We are doing more to exploit our underground space.  Soon we will have our first underground 230 kV substation in Pasir Panjang, and more underground district cooling systems in new areas like Punggol.

We are also going deeper underground (more than 150 m below ground) to develop caverns. We already have the rock caverns in Jurong for oil storage. We are now identifying and safeguarding suitable locations for future cavern uses.

For the first time this year, we have put together a comprehensive 3D Underground Space Plan.  We’ve completed the underground plans for Marina Bay, Jurong Innovation District and Punggol Digital District, and will include other areas in the Plan over time.

Finally, we can create more space by extending seaward through reclamation.

For example, we have reclaimed land in Tuas for a new terminal.  We will move our existing ports in the southern part of Singapore to Tuas, and free up about 1000 ha of prime waterfront space. This will enable us to extend our downtown area, beyond Marina Bay to a new Southern Waterfront City.

Reclamation is costly and requires a lot of sand. That is why we have embarked on a new method of reclamation in Pulau Tekong using polders and dikes. This method requires about 40 per cent less sand compared to traditional reclamation.

Reclamation is important for another reason – it is a strategy to protect Singapore against the threat of rising sea levels due to climate change.  We have already raised reclamation levels by an additional 1m.  But more will need to be done.

So we are studying the need for other infrastructure, including sea walls and pumping stations to protect against rising sea levels.  These are long-term investments but we are planning well ahead so that we can put them in place in a timely manner.

Land will always be a constraint in our little island.

But through human ingenuity, we can come up with innovative ways to stretch our land options – upward, downward and seaward. That’s how we can overcome our natural constraints, and continue to succeed over the long-term.

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