5 ways Singapore is protecting her coasts today, according to PUB’s documentary

With the looming threats caused by climate change, coastal protection is becoming even more important for Singapore.

Sherlyn Sim

Considers knowing how to use a rice cooker an achievement.

Published: 21 October 2022, 3:02 PM

Rising sea levels as a result of climate change have made it important for Singapore, an island city, to plan ahead to keep our shores safe. 

A documentary on Singapore’s coastal protection efforts titled Stem the Tide, commissioned by PUB and produced by CNA, was released on Oct 14 to help Singaporeans better understand the importance of protecting our country’s shores.

Since April 2020, PUB has been leading, coordinating and exploring whole-of-government efforts to protect Singapore’s coastlines as the appointed national coastal protection agency. Along with the 45-min documentary, PUB is doing a series of dialogue sessions, named Our Coastal Conversation, as part of the Forward Singapore exercise.

Here are some of the measures that have been implemented in Singapore to combat the rising sea levels, according to the documentary:

Site-specific studies on the risks of different areas

Many site-specific studies have been conducted to help understand the risks of different areas in Singapore. These have been conducted in areas including the East Coast and North-West Coast.

Some of these studies involve hydrodynamic modelling along the coast and inland, which provides more information on flood risks and allows flood maps to be produced. 

“We can actually assess and quantify the damages,” says Chuck Kho, Deputy CEO and Director of CPG Consultants. 

“From there, we will then formulate adaptation measures.”

Professor Yong Kwet Yow from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the National University of Singapore explains that site-specific adaptive planning is important because every area has its own different risk. 

“No solution is one-size-fits-all,” he shares. 

As such, coastlines are segregated into eight planning areas, including North-West Coast, Jurong Island, City-East Coast, Kranji Dam, Pasir Ris Park, Changi Beach and Marina Bay. These areas are hydraulically connected, meaning that if water gets into one part of the coast, it could affect the whole area, shares director of the coastal protection department at PUB Hazel Khoo. 

Segregating the areas also allows PUB to study each area’s different land use characteristics and coastal processes to better create solutions for that area.

Integrated solutions

PUB hopes to integrate coastal protection measures into our daily environment. An example of this is Marina Barrage. 

Most Singaporeans might know it as a location for picnics, flying kits, or even to catch fireworks on special occasions. But the use of Marina Barrage goes beyond just that – it is also a multi-functional facility that helps with coastal protection. 

“It is basically a barrier that cuts off the tidal influence of the sea from the low-lying city areas, but at the same time it is a lifestyle attraction, a recreational space,” shares Ms Khoo. 

“Most of the time, [people] don’t even realise that it is actually a functional facility that helps us and protects us from flooding.”


Marina Barrage also creates a freshwater lake that boosts Singapore’s water supply. PHOTO CREDIT: PUB

Flood mitigation strategies

As sea levels continue to rise, flooding becomes a bigger issue both along coasts and further inland as well. To prevent and mitigate these floods, PUB has various strategies.

One example is the conversion of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park from a concrete canal to a naturalised waterway. 

The 62-hectare park, first opened in 1988, underwent a revamp between 2009 and 2011, and reopened in 2012. The concrete canal originally in the park was demolished to contribute to flood mitigation.  

“On wet days, the entire area will turn into a floodplain and convey storm water and reduce flood risk,” she explains.


The park’s floodplains can accommodate vast amounts of water to help reduce flood risk in the surrounding areas. PHOTO CREDIT: FACEBOOK/BISHAN-TOA PAYOH

Man-made coastal protection measures

Along the coasts of Singapore, many coastal protection measures can already be found. Breakwaters are present at East Coast Park, Palawan and Siloso Beach in Sentosa, and the Breakwater @ Marina East.

Breakwaters are hard, usually stone structures built along coasts to protect them. They protect coasts by helping with sediment deposition, as well as reducing erosion by, as their name suggests, breaking water or waves. This slows down the waves, resulting in less sediments being pulled out to sea, while more sediments are deposited along the breakwaters and the shoreline.


The breakwaters along Sentosa help to protect our coasts. PHOTO CREDIT: GOOGLE MAPS

Conservation of natural coastal protection

There are actually already natural structures that protect coasts in similar ways to breakwaters. These are called mangroves, and Singapore has them along its North-West coast. 

Singapore has been working to preserve mangroves and other natural habitats by creating nature reserves such as Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

Mangroves help to protect coasts in part due to their extensive root structures. Similar to breakwaters, their root structures slow down the waves as the water has to rush through the tight spaces in between the roots, resulting in more deposition and less erosion.


Mangrove root structures are intricate and designed to sustain the trees in the harsh coastal environment. PHOTO CREDIT: JONATHAN TAN


Ms Khoo notes the importance of coastal measures that complement these natural habitats to come up with solutions for coastal protection. 

“Instead of just building a slope revetment where we only use rocks or gravels, I think there’s a potential for us to also incorporate mangroves into structures like this,” she says.

These are only a few of the many strategies Singapore has implemented to protect itself from coastal erosion and sea level rise. However, there are still many other measures that are in the planning stages. 

Singapore is also taking notes from other countries such as the Netherlands and Germany on how to integrate coastal protection measures into the built environment. 

Ms Khoo shares that the goal is to create “a better environment where people can come and enjoy, rather than just a facility that protects us from sea level rise”.

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