Creating more space
First, build skyward, then reclaim the sea - and now create
land by digging underground. By Seah Chiang Nee.
Jun 4, 2006
out more land for a proposed population of six or seven
million, futuristic-minded Singapore has not only been pushing
the sea back, but also digging deep into the bowels of the
earth to create space.
the past decade, this over-crowded island has speeded up
a long-term plan to resolve its two fundamental shortages
- land and people.
been carving out large subterranean pieces all over the
island to get more land for military, commercial, transportation,
industrial and institutional purposes.
of its current projects is building South-East Asia's longest
underground tunnel to alleviate traffic jams.
year, when it's completed, it will have an 18km road that
links two other expressways with the tunnel forming half
of it, expanding its network of underground transport systems.
supplements the 20km North East mass rapid transit (MRT)
line, which opened three years ago, most of which runs below
already one of the world's densest cities with 4.3 million
people, plans to have a population of six to seven million
for a long-term creative effort that requires planners to
regard land as a non-finite commodity.
strategy began just after 1965 by building upward, packing
millions of people into high-rise homes and offices.
were cleared with the citizens, except Muslims, asked to
reclaim family members for cremation.
Singapore, even the dead had to make way for the living,"
I wrote then.
upward mobility will go higher. The government has announced
that future Housing Board (HDB) flats will be 40 or even
80 storeys high, compared to the current 20-plus.
of these blocks will be joined by mid-floor walkways for
convenience and better land use.
second strategy is through reclamation, an on-going process
of pushing back the sea. After decades at it, Singapore
is now bigger by a whole Hong Kong Island.
city's size of 580 sq km in 1965 has been widened to 650
sq km, a 12% expansion of 70 sq km.
Hong Kong island measures 78 sq km. Singapore could measure
720 sq km by 2010 and 820 sq km by 2030, the timetable depending
on the availability of sand.
proposed Sands' S$5bil casino resort - one of two - will
be built on reclaimed land in Marina Bay.
project to join up seven outlying islands was completed
several years ago to make up Singapore's chemical hub.
there is a point beyond which reclamation will become exhausted,
so burrowing has become more crucial. Some of the soil has
been used for reclamation.
years, underground caverns were created as bomb shelters
and storage for ammunition.
is also building subterranean ring roads, a science lab,
shopping complexes and a S$9bil underground sewage system
that will take 20 years to finish.
a city underground is, of course, slow and very costly but
less intrusive, something that goes on almost with interruption
through the years.
ago, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew returned from Paris impressed
with its central underground ring roads and called for a
possible adaptation in Singapore.
result is a S$4.8bil plan to build a network of ring roads
below the central business district. The first result came
several years ago when Dhoby Ghaut, a five-level subterranean
station linking three MRT lines was opened.
linked underground to a shopping complex and the Istana
Park and can cater to 20,000 people an hour.
need for more space comes as population growth is revised
again and again.
long ago that government planners had said that the island
republic could comfortably handle a four million population
predictably by 2020.
figure was reached in the late 1990s, due to a large influx
of foreigners. Out of today's 4.3m, about a million are
suffers from a declining birth rate and an ageing population
and relies on foreign immigrants for rejuvenation and expansion.
projected six to seven million population by 2030 would
require possibly two or three naturalised citizens for every
one Singaporean born here.
of the planned underground projects include:
underground science complex near the National University
large sewage system that comprises two highway-size tunnels
criss-crossing the island, 12 storeys below ground. Stretching
for 80km with a series of smaller link sewers running another
170km, the project will take 20 years to finish.
fourth refuse incinerator - a billion dollar project - at
Tuas South and an offshore landfill at Pulau Semakau, are
the acute shortage, land use is strictly apportioned. Just
over 50% is used to build homes, schools and hospitals,
almost 38% for industrial use and 12% for parks.
new mood, many public buildings, including hospitals, and
government and industrial buildings, have been redeveloped
to provide larger cover-up area.
space is an alternative for the future space development
in Singapore," an official said.
could be created in the form of caverns, tunnels and deep
basement, for commercial, transportation, industrial and
institutional purposes, he added.
idea that is being explored is the use of subterranean space
under very large parks, such as the one in Marina South.
In Washington DC and Paris, for example, some museums are
housed beneath public spaces.
To Think" is today's motto, and town planners and architects
are being challenged to come up with any possibility, even
building new cities on the sea.
was published in The Sunday Star on Jun 4, 2006)