March 14, 2002
BY T. SELVA
Malaysia's stand on Singapore reclamation depend on study
THE Drainage and Irrigation Department has started conducting a study on the effects of Singapore’s land reclamation in the Straits of Johor and the final report will be ready in six months.
The technical research to obtain data on the likely harm the project was expected to cause to the shipping lane and marine ecology was being jointly conducted by the DID, National Hydrographic Research Institute, navy and a consultant.
DID director-general Datuk Keizrul Abdullah told the Star yesterday, March 13, that a model showing the hydraulics of the whole area would be developed after the team had compiled the data.
He said the computer model would include the findings from the hydrographic survey and tidal flow.
“Following this, the model will be calibrated to determine the likely impact the land reclamation will have on the straits and surrounding area.
“We don’t deny the right of our neighbours to carry out development within their territory but it is only proper that we should know whether their actions will have an impact on us,” said Keizrul.
He said narrowing the channel may increase or decrease the current velocity and this may be hazardous both ways.
“If the current flow is increased, it may pose a danger to vessel manoeuvrability and if it is decreased, it can cause siltation.
“Another possible impact is that if there is a downpour in Johor’s hinterland, the time taken for the volume of water to flow into the river and sea will take longer,” he said.
Keizrul said the final report would be given to other relevant agencies like the Marine Department and Department of Environment to determine the impact it would have on their respective areas of interest.
“If the reclamation has serious impact to our environment, we will propose to the Government to request Singapore to make some modification to its island expansion.”
According to Singapore’s Concept Plan 2001 posted on its website, its future reclamation can increase its existing land size by another 15 percent.
However, it reported that there was a limit to how much it could reclaim as Singapore’s shoreline was not far from the boundaries of its neighbours.
The plan maps out Singapore’s vision for the next 40 to 50 years and is based on a population scenario of 5.5 million.
The purpose of the reclamation is to provide housing, commercial, recreation, infrastructure needs, water catchment and military use.
It said with only 660 sq km, the island’s main challenge was the scarcity of land.
Its concept plan map showed that the reclaimed land on Pulau Tekong and Pulau Ubin would be connected with three bridges to the republic.
In Johor Baru, ZUHRIM AZAM AHMAD reports that a senior state government official has said that the reclamation project is almost certain to affect the marine ecology in the Johor Straits.
The official, who declined to be named, said a study conducted on water quality in the area recently revealed that its nutritional content had been depleted.
“For instance, in areas where seaweed was known to be abundant, there is hardly any left.
“It is an indication that the nutritional content in the areas is very low due to poor water quality, possibly caused by seabed movements resulting from the reclamation work,” said the official, whose responsibilities include fishery matters.
He said the marine life that would be badly affected included the dugong.
“The dugong lives in this area and when water quality around the island is reduced, it will inevitably destroy the seaweed, its staple food. With that gone, the dugong will go, too,” he said.
The official said he hopes Singapore realises the situation and has taken steps to ensure that the water quality in the area remains high.