PUB to lead Singapore’s coastal protection efforts

From 1 April 2020, Singapore’s national water agency PUB will assume an additional role as the nation’s Coastal Protection Agency, safeguarding Singapore’s coastline against the threat of rising sea levels.

Holistic approach to manage inland and coastal flood risks
This move will consolidate the Government’s sustained efforts to protect Singapore from the threat of sea level rise. As a low-lying island, Singapore is particularly susceptible to rising sea levels. In addition to managing inland flood risks, PUB will now lead and coordinate efforts to develop long-term strategies to manage coastal flood risks, and explore innovative methods to protect Singapore from intense rainfall and encroaching waters.

By combining coastal protection responsibilities with its stormwater management functions, PUB will be in a position to look at inland and coastal flooding holistically. This strengthens Singapore’s overall resilience against climate change. The potential impacts of sea level rise on Singapore were highlighted in the Coastal Adaptation Study, which the Building and Construction Authority commissioned in 2013. It is the first-of-its kind to study the vulnerability of Singapore’s coastlines to future sea level rise and potential impacts of coastal inundation. The study concluded in 2019 and identified Jurong Island and the low-lying City-East Coast as the most vulnerable areas. Coastal protection plans in both areas will be prioritised.

For a start, PUB will embark on studies and work closely with other agencies and stakeholders to develop long-term strategies and engineering designs for protecting specific segments of the coastline along the City-East Coast and Jurong Island. The first of these studies are due to commence in 2020. PUB will also draw on the experience of other coastal cities and low-lying countries.

Coastal and Flood Protection Fund
As announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget Statement, a new Coastal and Flood Protection Fund (CFPF) will be set up under PUB, with an initial funding of $5 billion from the Government. The CFPF will fund the capital expenditure for both coastal protection and drainage infrastructure. As these measures require significant capital outlay, this Fund will ensure a sustainable and reliable pool of funding.

“The effects of rising seas, caused by climate change, will certainly be catastrophic. And if not prepared for, will surely devastate Singapore. The Prime Minister has made it quite clear that sea-level rise poses nothing less than an existential challenge for our island country. The challenge will also be persistent one. We will never win. But we have to make sure we do not lose,” said Mr Ng Joo Hee, Chief Executive, PUB.

“We cannot stop the sea from rising, but we have to make sure we adapt. And it is entirely possible that we adapt well and profitably. This is the new task that has been set for PUB—to lead the charge in planning and implementing Singapore’s protection from the ever-rising seas to come.”

Current Adaptation Efforts
At present, about 70% of Singapore’s coastline is protected from erosion by waves and storms, using structures such as concrete seawalls and stone revetments. The rest of the coast consists of natural areas such as beaches and mangroves. Other conventional coastal protection measures include the installation of pumps and tidal gates at mouths of waterways, as well as storm surge barriers and dykes. Our coastal reservoirs are also formed by closing up major waterways with dams and dykes, accompanied by a system of tidal gates, spillways and pumps to regulate freshwater volume during wet weather. The enhancement of the coastal reservoirs to adapt to projected rising sea levels is currently underway.

Since 2011, the minimum level for newly reclaimed land has been increased from three to four metres, above the mean sea level to cater for long-term sea level rise. Future facilities such as the Changi Airport Terminal 5 and Tuas Terminal mega port will be built even higher – at least five metres above mean sea level.