As sea levels rise, airport to expand on higher ground

Tham Yuen-c The Straits Times AsiaOne 13 Dec 14;

THE upcoming expansion of Changi Airport will take place on higher ground to guard against rising sea levels, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

The reclaimed land on which it will stand will be built up to provide a buffer that will withstand more than the projected 18-inch (46cm) rise in sea levels in the next 100 years, he told Singapore reporters.

Mr Lee cited the move when elaborating on what Singapore will do to mitigate the threat of climate change, a key point of his address earlier in the day at the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit.

As a low-lying island state, Singapore takes climate change seriously and will do its part to ease its impact, he told leaders of the 10 ASEAN nations and South Korean President Park Geun Hye at the summit in Busan.

Mr Lee urged all sides to work together to tackle this threat as well as diseases, natural disasters and terrorism. These "non-traditional security issues" required a global response, he said.

Hence, for the United Nations climate change conference in Paris next year, when 196 nations will meet to sign an agreement, Mr Lee wants ASEAN and South Korea to join hands in advancing negotiations at the meeting.

"(Such cooperation) will help to ensure a stable and peaceful region that continues to prosper for the benefit of our people," he said.

Sea levels are rising as global warming causes polar ice caps to melt, and scientists have warned that large swathes of coastal areas could be swallowed up by the end of the century.

This poses an immediate threat to coastal populations in ASEAN countries, said Mr Lee.

Singapore has taken action, he told the reporters, saying standards for reclamation and new buildings have been raised to ensure land surfaces are higher.

The minimum level for newly reclaimed land has gone up since 2011 to 2.25m above the highest recorded tide level. Before that, it was 1.25m.

Does this mean Singapore will be raised by 1m? "If the sea levels rise by 1m, which is more than what people presently expect, I think over 100 years, there are quite a lot of things we can do," said Mr Lee after the summit.

He also said the ongoing review of the free trade agreement between Singapore and South Korea had not made a lot of progress.

"There are vested interests involved and I hope the Koreans will come together and decide what's in their national interest," he added.

Next year, which marks 40 years of diplomatic ties between Singapore and South Korea, President Tony Tan Keng Yam will make a state visit to the country.

"I think it's good that we work towards having substantive content to that visit, and not just a ceremonial occasion," Mr Lee said.