Low-lying nations such as the Netherlands and Singapore face unique challenges in the face of rising sea levels. These countries, with significant portions of their landmasses at or below sea level, are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. For the Netherlands, a country with a history of battling the sea, about a third of its territory lies below sea level. The same is true for the city-state of Singapore.
Rising Sea Levels
Atlantis was a legendary island in the Atlantic Ocean, lying west of the Strait of Gibraltar. It was a rich island but was swallowed up by the sea. In view of climate change and rising sea levels, Singapore is threatened with the fate of Atlantis.
The threat of rising sea levels has necessitated the construction of an intricate system of dikes, sea walls, and other barriers to keep the waters at bay. Singapore, with approximately one-third of its land less than 16 feet above sea level, is at risk of frequent flooding, threatening its urban infrastructure and economic hubs.
The predicament of these nations underscores the immediate and tangible threats posed by rising sea levels. Their continued existence and prosperity hinge on their ability to innovate and adapt to these changing conditions. The experiences of the Netherlands and Singapore serve as cautionary tales for other coastal regions worldwide, emphasizing the need for global cooperation and action against the looming challenges of climate change.
Singapore’s Proactive Measures
Singapore has always been proactive in its approach to tackle the challenges posed by climate change. The city-state has grown by one-quarter over the past few decades and plans to expand by an additional 4% by 2030. This expansion is particularly noteworthy given that many global coastlines are receding due to rising sea levels. Projections show the sea level could rise between 0.38m and 0.79m by 2100 and between 0.58m and 1.37m by 2150.
In such a scenario, low-lying coastal regions and reclaimed land could experience more frequent and extensive flooding as 30% of Singapore’s land area is less than 5m above mean sea level, said the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) and national water agency PUB.
Singapore’s government agency, PUB, has emphasized that the nation will not lose any inch of its land permanently. Instead, they are committed to building a continuous line of defense along the entire coast.
Approximately one-third of Singapore lies less than 16 feet above sea level, making it vulnerable to flooding and resulting in potential financial losses. Prime real estate, including the iconic Marina Bay waterfront and major banks like DBS Group Holdings Ltd. and Standard Chartered Plc, are at risk. Estimates suggest that real estate worth S$70 billion ($50 billion) is at high risk of flooding.
Recognizing the gravity of the situation, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in 2019 that Singapore would allocate S$100 billion over the next century to protect against rising sea levels. The government has already dedicated S$5 billion toward a coastal and flood protection fund.
Singapore has been exploring innovative solutions to combat the rising sea levels. The Marina Barrage, a S$226 million dam, is one such marvel. This dam, equipped with seven giant pumps, drains excess water into the sea during high tide and extreme rainfall1. Currently, human-made barriers protect 70% of Singapore’s coastline, but there’s a need to reinforce and improve these defenses as sea levels continue to rise.
Collaborative efforts between the Hydroinformatics Institute, National University of Singapore, and PUB aim to simulate the combined effects of sea-level rise and rainfall on the country’s coastlines. This computer model, expected to be completed by 2025, will help identify the most vulnerable areas based on predicted flood depth and duration.
Mangroves play a crucial role in acting as a natural barrier against rising seas. In Singapore, mangroves can reduce storm wave heights by over 75%. However, relying solely on mangroves isn’t feasible. Singapore is exploring the possibility of combining mangroves with other barriers, such as revetments made of stone or concrete.
The challenge of rising sea levels is not unique to Singapore, but the city-state’s proactive approach, combined with its innovative solutions, serves as a model for other nations. As the world grapples with the effects of climate change, it is imperative for countries to collaborate, share knowledge, and work towards a sustainable future.