May 16, 2008

Another run away idea for Changi

A few days ago, Syu Ying Kwok again wrote to the Straits Times with another engineering proposal for Changi's shores. This time to propose a Changi 4th runway float on the sea (Straits Times Forum 12 May 08).

Putting aside the issues of whether floating platforms are feasible or applicable, is there really such a dire need for land for Changi Airport?

One of the writer's points is that "For Singapore to become the major aviation hub in Asia and South-east Asia, we need a massive amount of land to cater to the industry's growing needs. The Changi cargo and aircraft maintenance area is bursting at the seams."

Let's have a look at the availability of land near Changi airport...
Hmm... I'm not sure what the writer sees, but to me it looks like there's quite a bit of unused land right next to the existing airport runways.

The writer doesn't exactly say where this "floating platform" will be placed, but let's have a look at the marine area near Changi Airport.On the google map, uses of our waters are not as obvious as terrestrial uses.

So let's look at a navigational map extract from an MPA notice about works at sea.Firstly, the channel between Changi and Tekong is a major shipping lane.

In fact, in PUB's reply (Straits Times Forum 22 Apr 08) to the writer's earlier proposal a Tekong-Ubin reservoir (Straits Times Forum 18 Apr 08), PUB stated that "The waterway between Pulau Ubin, Pulau Tekong and the mainland is a major shipping lane".

Where does this shipping lane lead to?

Sembawang Shipyards is one of locations accessed by this shipping lane. From the Sembawang Shipyard website: " Sembawang Shipyard is Singapore’s leading ship repair facility. We repair some 220 vessels from more than 35 countries annually. We are a recognised specialist in highly sophisticated markets of LNG carriers, passenger ships, chemical tankers, liquefied gas carriers, navy ships repairs, life extensions of VLCCs and damage repairs."

These are very large vessels.

Secondly, areas in Singapore's waters are designated for a wide range of uses that support Singapore's position as a world-class port (which is why MPA has to issue a notice when there is works in the area, to warn the MANY users of our waters).

It may surprise the writer to know that Singapore's shores and seas have economic value just as our land does.

And just as Changi Airport is the hub for air travel, Singapore's port is also a major hub for international movement of cargo.

From PSA's website "PSA Singapore Terminals handles about one-fifth of the world's total container transhipment throughput. In 2007, PSA Singapore Terminals handled 27.1 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUS) of containers. PSA operates 4 container terminals and 2 multi-purpose terminals in Singapore, and links shippers to an excellent network of 200 shipping lines with connections to 600 ports in 123 countries.

I dare say the bulk of our cargo comes by sea rather than by air.

Here's a closer look at some of the designated uses of the marine area near Changi.
Not forgetting that this shore area is also the location of the Changi Naval Base.In commenting on why the Tekong-Ubin reservoir proposal is not practical (Straits Times Forum 22 Apr 08), Ivan Kwan Wei Ming noted, among others,

When reclamation at Pulau Tekong has already become the subject of territorial disputes with Malaysia, and when the issue of Pedra Branca has yet to be resolved, proposing to build such a reservoir so close to international boundaries will surely not sit easily with our neighbours.

The Malaysian authorities will be unhappy for another reason: Mr Syu failed to take into account the fact that the proposed reservoir would destroy an internationally important shipping lane. Ships travelling between Pasir Gudang, Sembawang Shipyard, and the rest of the world stand to lose an essential route if the area was dammed up. Are the economic and political risks worth it?
These issues remain relevant to any ideas of placing large offshore objects in the area. Surely the writer realises that?

Among the comments left on the issue by readers were
"Mr. Syu also seems to advocating for the mass-destruction of coastal and island ecological systems of Pulau Ubin, Pulau Tekong and Changi."

"Forum writers really should do basic information-gathering before launching into such fantastical spiels. How the writer got the idea, I really don't know. But a logical think-through would quickly result in the idea being shot down."
Indeed I wonder about the writer's seeming obsession with 'doing something' with the shores and water around Changi? These areas are NOT 'unused' or 'underutilised'. They are in fact used for critical elements of Singapore's national and economic needs.

The writer's continuing disregard for basic realities of the area is also rather puzzling. Particularly since these have been highlighted earlier.


pinto said...

Hmmm... I missed his letter. Thanks for highlighting it.

I wonder why the Straits Times keeps on giving this guy space in the papers. Surely there are better causes.

Ivan said...

This particular one was so preposterous and outlandish that I felt it didn't deserve a response. Heh.

In between the Ubin-Tekong reservoir and the floating runway, he did have a letter published online, about encouraging electronic billing. Hmm.

Joseph Lai Tuck Kwong said...

STupid! Get it? : )

You get space... lots of it... if you are a super-patriot, I guessed... even a super STupid one! ha ha!

Anyway, that's why I have decidedly switched to BBC, New York Times and other non-native papers for serious reading instead. But for a good laugh, this kind of report is great! : )

Ivan said...

He has YET another letter today... this time on decommissioning of RSN missile gunboats.

I'm really starting to wonder just how often he sends in letters to ST, or whether his name is some pen name adopted by many people.

ria said...

Ivan, you do have a point there.

A group of people might explain the different tone in the various letters (or is it due to different levels of editing?) and the fact that arguments ignore responses to earlier letters.

Anonymous said...


As ST Forum only allows 400 words per article, I am not able to put everything into my article on Tekong Ubin Reservoir.

Currently, more than 20% of our water is derived from Newater. Singapore has to invent new source of water because we do not have enough land mass to collect enough water for our heavily populated island.

But unknown to many, Newater has a very heavy carbon foot print; we need lots of energy to create Newater. I am an environmentalist, if you compare the 2, building a tekong-ubin-singapore (TUS) reservoir will be less damaging to the Earth on the long run.

TUS reservoir can actually be built without harming Chek Jawa which i truely love. What will kill C J is the increase in large shipping traffic that is moving just beside it. The dam can be built like a curve turning south wards and joining both Ubin and Tekong.

Singapore also has a large fresh water eco system near the north east and north west. With this new reservoir, if built, this dying eco system will truely flourish again as human activity on the water will become almost zero.

If given a choice, i will not be tempering with nature at all, but the TUS reservoir is necessary long term with the least harm done to Mother Earth.

Syu Ying Kwok.

ria said...

Syu Ying Kwok, thanks for your comment on this blog entry.

Firstly, there is no "large shipping traffic that is moving just beside" Chek Jawa. Do have a look at navigation charts that indicate the shipping channel, and the location of Chek Jawa. Spend a day at Chek Jawa and you will see no large ships and very little shipping traffic moving opposite her shores.

What is more detrimental and has already affected Chek Jawa severely resulting in mass deaths is the drop in salinity due to massive rainfall in Johor in early 2007.

For details see

Tampering with the water flows around Chek Jawa will hurt it severely. The reclamation at Pulau Tekong has probably affected hydrology in the area and has had an impact on Chek Jawa. A dam will surely deal a death blow to Chek Jawa.

Secondly, regarding your comment that the "dying freshwater eco systems on the north will truely (sic) flourish again as human activity on the water will become almost zero".

Again, what affects these ecosystems is interfering with natural water flows. A dam will infact worsen human impacts arising from upstream (which no doubt will continue) as there is no flow.

Go find out the issues arising from the Marina Barrage and you can get an idea of some of impact of massive engineering that disrupts nature.

Here's a glimpse at one effect that was reported in the press. "Stench from Singapore River affecting business"

Dams have a negative impact on ecosystems. A quick google check will give you plenty of articles outlining the issues.

Thirdly, if the problem is that we don't have enough water, shouldn't we look at conserving water and working out engineering solutions to reduce our water requirements? Rather than trying to change nature to give us more water for our water-wasting lifestyle?

This would in fact be a more sustainable approach to all our resource constraints. Instead of trying to wrest more of such limited resources from the planet.

I am glad to hear that you truly love Chek Jawa. In the light of this love, I urge you to learn more about Chek Jawa, our marine and maritime issues, as well as broad issues of sustainability.