Even with the best efforts to limit the rise in global temperatures, countries are taking adaptation measures to reduce the damaging impact of climate change and increase their resilience to potential future effects.
Singapore is no different.
As a small low-lying island-state, we need to take the impact of climate change very seriously, and invest in resilient infrastructure to safeguard ourselves and our future.
Protecting our coasts from sea level rise
As an island-state and a major port city, Singapore is defined by our coasts. To protect these areas, we have strengthened our defences against coastal erosion and flooding. Today, over 70% of Singapore’s coastline is protected with hard structures such as seawalls and rock slopes.
We expect to invest S$100 billion, or even more, in coastal defences such as sea walls, pumping stations and land reclamation.
We are also making plans for coastal defences to better protect our coastal areas, starting with the more critical segments, in particular, City-East Coast and Jurong Island.
PUB has planned to build a second pump house on the opposite end of the Marina Barrage to pump water out of Marina Reservoir into the sea. When rain falls in the city area, the water can then drain into Marina Reservoir.
Photo Credit: Ministry of Communications and Information
For the eastern coastline, some of the options we are considering include the building of polders (which is land reclaimed from the sea) or reclaiming a series of islands offshore, from Marina East all the way to Changi.
Our plan will also incorporate nature-based solutions such as active restoration of our mangrove areas.
Safeguarding Key Infrastructure
Since 2011, we have raised minimum reclamation levels for newly reclaimed lands to at least four metres above the mean sea level, up from three metres previously. Roads near coastal areas, including a stretch of Changi Coast Road and Nicoll Drive, have also been raised to protect them from rising sea levels.
We have also raised the minimum platform levels for new developments and are building critical future developments such as the Changi Airport Terminal 5 and Tuas Terminal mega port at higher platform levels – at least five metres above mean sea level.
Climate change could also affect our underground MRT stations as they will be susceptible to flooding during intense rainfalls. To protect our commuters and rail infrastructure, we have built MRT stations with elevated entrances or installed flood barriers.
Enhancing flood resilience
Since 2011, Singapore has spent $1.8 billion on drainage improvement works to boost our flood resilience. This includes the Stamford Diversion Canal and Stamford Detention Tank completed last year, which significantly enhance the flood protection of the Orchard Road areas. In the next two years, another $400 million will go towards upgrading and maintaining our drains.
Ensuring water resilience
We have invested in research and development, water infrastructures, and diversified Singapore’s water supply to include weather-resilient sources such as NEWater and desalinated water.
Strengthening food security
Singapore imports more than 90% of our food today. This makes us vulnerable to external factors, such as volatilities of the global food market, impacts of climate change, and disease outbreak.
To make our food supply more resilient, we are pursuing three strategies, also known as our three “food baskets”:
- Diversify import sources;
- Grow local; and
- Grow overseas.
To effectively buffer against supply disruptions, we aim to produce 30% of our nutritional needs by 2030.
Investing in research to guide adaptation planning
The Centre for Climate Research Singapore will launch a S$10 million National Sea Level Research Programme over the next five years to develop more robust projections of sea level rise. A new Climate Science Research Programme Office will also be set up to formulate, lead and drive efforts to build up climate science capabilities in Singapore.
Protecting Biodiversity and Greenery
Our trees are an essential part of Singapore’s landscape. But some trees are especially tall and certain species are fragile. This makes them likely to fall or be uprooted in strong gales or periods of heavy rain.
To ensure that our trees are in good health and resilient to climate change, the National Parks Board (NParks) inspects trees along major roads and areas with high human activity at least once a year. If needed, trees are pruned to reduce the size and weight of their crowns so they can better withstand strong winds. Storm-vulnerable trees have also been replaced with hardier species. NParks also studies tree uprooting to better diagnose its causes.
To protect Singapore’s marine biodiversity, NParks established Singapore’s first marine park at the Sisters’ Islands in 2014. The marine park is an ecosystem inhabited by rare and endangered marine animals. Other measures to protect Singapore’s biodiversity include restoring mangrove areas in Singapore.
Protecting Public Health
Climate change also poses threats to our health. For example, changes in the weather pattern, such as temperature increase, could create prime conditions for mosquitoes to breed and viruses to replicate faster, leading to an increase in the infective vector population and transmission of dengue. We have already seen similar trends in late 2015, when there was a spike in dengue cases partly due to weather changes caused by the El Niño.
Currently, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has in place a nation-wide programme to fight dengue – but we will need to do more as we prepare for harsher conditions in the future. While innovative solutions such as Wolbachia technology could help to suppress the mosquito population, sustained efforts by the community to eradicate mosquito breeding habitats remain key to preventing dengue.
Enhancing our Built Environment
It is essential for the buildings we live and work in to be protected from the effects of climate change. Analyses so far have indicated that the structural integrity of buildings in Singapore will not be affected by the projected changes in temperature, rainfall, and wind speeds as long as the buildings adhere to building codes and are properly maintained. As many buildings in Singapore are constructed and maintained by private developers and owners, the private sector plays an indispensable role in helping us keep our buildings safe. BCA and the Housing & Development Board (HDB) are conducting additional studies to further understand the potential effects of higher temperatures, rainfall, and wind speeds on buildings and building attachments, to recommend adaptation measures to enhance the resilience of our buildings.
The Green Mark Scheme is the Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA) green building rating system, tailored for the tropics and sub-tropics. It evaluates and sets benchmarks for environmental sustainability in buildings. To enhance current efforts to green existing buildings, BCA and Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC) have collaborated to develop the Zero Capital Partnership scheme, which provides a “zero capital” solution for building owners to carry out energy efficiency retrofits for buildings. These efforts will contribute to Singapore’s aim of making 80% of all buildings green by 2030.