Apr 21, 2008

Making money from our coasts and waterlines

There was another 'let's make money from our coasts' letter today ...

Create a 'Gold Coast' at East Coast Park
Letter from Michael Tan Jiak Ngee, Straits Times Forum 21 Apr 08;

I READ with interest that the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is opening up land outside the central area (for example in Balestier) for hotel development.

I commend the move. It will help meet the high demand for rooms now and in the years ahead. It will also help to ameliorate the growing congestion in the Central Business District.

The choice and location of new tourism projects are significant for Singapore. I feel we can and should do more to exploit our valuable waterfront assets.

It is noteworthy that Sentosa has made successful inroads in the tourism sector and, lately, the luxury residential market. It is not by coincidence our two integrated resorts are situated near the waterfront.

I wonder if the URA and the Singapore Tourism Board have studied the feasibility of creating our own 'Gold Coast' at the East Coast Park.

It is an exquisite diamond waiting to be cut and polished.

The land area is massive, stretching from the Big Splash to the Lagoon, with lush vegetation and trees nestling the waterfront. It has all the qualities to be transformed into a major tourism/leisure hub with an array of iconic waterfront hotels and related amenities.

Such a hub at the East Coast Park will not encroach on the present activities of Singaporeans in the area. Good planning can ensure that the interests of both tourists and Singaporeans are met.

Another idea which may seem to be a long shot is for an 'experimental eco-theme hotel' to be built at one of our major reservoirs.

Obviously, the design must blend in with the rich vegetation and tranquillity. It will offer a select group of discerning tourists, and Singaporeans, a new kind of 'natural habitat experience'.

While the two major integrated resorts, together with other exciting facilities, will undoubtedly take Singapore tourism to new heights, it will be unwise to believe that their magic will last forever.

We need to continue to innovate and reinvent to broaden our international appeal - thus staying ahead in the expanding global tourism market.
Some points to consider...

From "Coastal Impact of Tourism" Prepared by the United Nations Commission on
Sustainable Development NGO Steering Committee

The two most popular locations for holiday makers are the mountains and the coast.

Most problems are related to conflicts between different uses and access restrictions. Tourism leads to increased traffic flow and overcrowding in already densely populated areas. Up to 130 tourists have been calculated per inhabitant in the most popular coastal regions. Therefore tourism adds substantially to the following pressures:
  • Pollution by waste water, garbage, heating, noise and traffic emissions;
  • Encroachment of buildings, facilities and roads close to the coastline;
  • Beach erosion due to building, dune removal and dredging;
  • Excessive use of natural areas;
  • Destruction of natural areas to accommodate tourism or other needs;
  • Inter-sectoral competition and conflict over (marine and terrestrial) space;
  • Exclusion of local communities from any role of significance in decision-making;
  • The loss of natural and architectural heritage in the face of rapid expansion;
  • Strain on public utilities and facilities;
  • Displacement of local population;
  • Creation of restricted exclusive zones that are off-limits to the local people;
  • Loss of business to the local enterprises as all-inclusive resorts supply all the needs of their guests.
Additional typical tourism impacts are socio-economic conflicts as property and general costs of living are increasing and small communities can be overrun by summer guests, changing the social structure significantly. Foreign customs and expectations can create conflicts and a deterioration of cultural and regional values.

Proposed solutions include ...

Criteria for planning and EIA should be:
  • Strict environmental standards for solid, liquid and gaseous waste emissions;
  • Taking the integrity of coastal values and resources into account;
  • Enhancement of public transport infrastructure (train, boat, bike, bus);
  • Locally adapted styles and maximum height/size limit for facilities;
  • Setting of local/regional carrying capacities on a case-by-case basis;
  • Limits to sale of property to foreigners;
  • Maintenance of public access to the coastal strip;
  • Safeguarding cultural values and customary uses.
Modern instruments, which should be and partly are already applied in the tourism industry are:
  • Introducing environmental management, (according to ISO 14.000 or the European EMAS Initiative);
  • Increasing cultural and nature awareness of guests through interactions with local initiatives, guided nature walks, museums, etc.;
  • Integrating the local economy by giving priority to local produce (eg fish, fruit, vegetables, furniture, building materials).

However, all these efforts will be in vain, unless carrying capacity limits can be agreed upon in a dialogue and on a case-by-case basis. These limits have to follow sustainability criteria and have to come out of discussions on the development objectives and the natural and cultural values to be protected.

These limits have to be probably most strict for "nature use". Here the introduction and implementation of ranger and guide systems together with limits regarding the number of visitors can lead to increased awareness and control at the same time.

As a simple example may serve the different approaches to beach litter. Instead of excessive beach cleaning of all organic matter, a plastic litter clean-up by volunteers plus hands-on teaching on the biota originally inhabiting the beach and its natural detritus like algae and wood could reinstate an appreciation of nature.

Here's more about the situation on the East Coast today ...

1 comment:

Liana said...

I know you didn't find much oil on the beach that time you visited ECP, but I was there on Saturday and took some pics of black stained sand near the popular part of the beach. Will share the pics once I can get them up.

How many "Gold Coasts" do we need? besides, if we keep building up bits and pieces of our shores then we are not going to have anything left very soon.

Recently, NPARKS cleared a sizeable area of bird sanctuary forest to make way for a freakin' extreme skate park near the bayshore area. I'm very miffed at that! That part of the beach was once made famous by a cicada rain phenomenon some years back. Also was one of the richer forest clumps in ECP that I know of, for a fact, is home to many birds as well as very large and beautiful goldern orb spiders.

Now, tai chi aunties and uncles that practice nearby observe that the cicada population has migrated to the sparse vegetation of sea almond trees near the shore. so sad! cicadas got no more homes.