Singapore port project: $20m to limit harm to environment

Govt focus on saving the coral along Labrador beach near construction works
Bryan Lee, Straits Times 25 Dec 07;

THE Government is spending more than $20 million to curtail the environmental effects of a new $2 billion port expansion project near Labrador Park.

Well before the first bulldozer started its engine two months ago, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) commissioned studies and sponsored initiatives to save the coral in the affected areas.

Many of the conservation efforts began two years ago and centred on coral along the park's beach, about 1km from where the new berths will be.

Key initiatives included studies to ensure that port developmental works meet environmental objectives, while coral in affected areas was moved to an artificial reef.

The MPA, which is spearheading the port project, said it engaged marine biology professor Chou Loke Ming of the National University of Singapore to conduct a study on coral in the Labrador nature reserve area.

He found that some coral would have been destroyed in making way for new submarine water pipes and electricity cables that have since been built from the mainland to Pulau Bukom.

These were replacements for original lines that had run through the new dock area.

Prof Chou said 42 per cent of the affected coral has been moved to a new artificial reef and it is doing well.

No coral species were lost in the process, he added.

An environmental monitoring and management plan has also been put in place to watch out for potential ill effects from port development work over the next six years.

Contractors are also required to use silt screens and containment bunds to mitigate the impact of sediment spill during construction.

Mr Leong Kwok Peng, who chairs the marine conservation group at the Nature Society, said the volunteer organisation has seen the reports and given its feedback to the authorities.

'Moving some coral is better than nothing at all. Many years back, there was much less attention to environmental effects at the last port expansion project.

'They have come a long way and have done well,' he said.

Still, Mr Leong said it will be key to monitor sediment spill from construction work over the rest of the project as it could block out sunlight needed by coral.

'Maybe they can make the data from the monitoring open to public scrutiny,' he said.

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