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Signal: Land Reclamation in Singapore

28.12.2017

Singapore is one of the countries that is the most effected by the rising sea levels caused by climate change. So far Singapore has been dealing with the rising sea levels mainly by reclaiming land from the ocean. The main land fill in the reclaimed areas  has been sand and the country is one of the world's biggest sand importers. This is problematic due to the lack of sand that the world is currently facing. This report examines this issue and discusses the possible opportunities that this could bring for Finnish companies.


Rise of sea levels

Much of the small island nation lies above less than 50 feet above sea level and approximately a third of Singapore lies no more than 16 feet above sea level. Many parts of the country could be submerged and Singapore might be running out of land in the future due to the rise of sea levels. Hitherto Singapore has been dealing with this mainly by land reclamation. During the period between 1965—2017 Singapore has grown its land area by a fifth by reclaiming land. The Marina Bay and the extension to the Changi Airport that is to be completed in the forthcoming years are examples of areas that are built on reclaimed land.

The reclamation of land has been conducted by importing sand and using it as a fill in the enclosed areas that are to be reclaimed. Due to the lack of sand that the world is currently facing Singapore needs to find alternatives to sand and look into other ways of maximising its land space in order to address the rise of sea levels.

Lack of sand

Following water, sand has become the world’s second most sought after natural resource. Sand had developed into the most extracted natural resource and the mining of sand and gravel notably surmounts the natural renewal rates. Sand is used in diverse sectors, particularly in land reclamation and the manufacturing of concrete. Sand is also needed for e.g. asphalt and glass and used in various products from smartphone screens to toothpaste.

Today legal sand mining is estimated to be a EUR 60 billion industry while the black market is deemed to constitute a billion-euro industry as well. Sand mining has had and continues to have a number of adverse consequences. The increasing scarcity of sand has led to illegal mining and the development of the aforementioned black market sand industry. Thousands of illegal sand mines are discovered ever year and according to experts hundreds of people including activists, police and government officials have lost their lives while resisting the illegalities in e.g. India, Vietnam and Indonesia.

In addition to the criminal activities sand mining has also has a degrading effect on the environment. It has lead to a loss of species as well as the loss or deterioration of habitats. Further, the scarcity of the natural resource has made sand prices soar which has left builders in e.g. India stranded. A lot of countries sand exporting countries, e.g. Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia, have also halted their sand exports due to the scarceness of the material.

Alternatives to sand and insights for Finland

As the biggest importer and user of sand Singapore is heavily affected by the lack of sand and its aforesaid consequences. The country is now looking for alternatives to sand and also researching and developing new materials that could be used for land reclamation instead of sand. Finnish companies that can provide alternatives to sand or other relevant solutions might be able to find opportunities related to this issue.

 

 

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