SINGAPORE — When sea levels rise, the low-lying areas of Singapore that will increasingly be at risk include a long stretch on the East Coast from Changi to the city centre, but property analysts said that this will unlikely affect the value of real estate in these areas.
This is because the Government has already indicated that it is going to tackle the problems, they said.
Stressing the importance of investing in climate change defence at the National Day Rally held at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central on Sunday (Aug 18), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that property values, safety and liveability in those areas will be affected by rising sea levels if mitigating measures are not in place.
To protect the coastline, the Government will likely need to spend S$100 billion or more on solutions over the next 50 to 100 years.
From a map that Mr Lee showed at the rally, the areas most susceptible to sea-level rise include Tanjong Rhu and Marine Parade, and places hugging the Singapore River and Kallang Basin.
Some of them happen to be prime real estate that is centrally located, sea-facing or offering riverfront living.
These areas are 4m above mean sea level or lower — and this is not much because water can surge as high as 2m above the mean sea level during high tide.
Mr Chris Koh, director of property consultancy Chris International, said that property prices in this eastern stretch will be pulled down only “if there are no solutions”, and if rising sea levels remain a “worrying situation”.
“Now, it is clear that the Government will do something, so property values will remain sustainable. Developers won’t be deterred.”
Furthermore, in 50 to 100 years’ time, 99-year lease properties in at-risk areas — even Mandarin Gardens along the Marine Parade Road stretch or the newest ones that are being built right now — would be returned to the Government to be redeveloped or be sold in an en-bloc sale, Mr Koh said.
In time, property developers should also know to construct buildings to sit at least 4m above sea level in at-risk areas, he said, noting that it is “not difficult” for developers to raise the foundation by 1m.
At the rally, Mr Lee said that a buffer is needed to cope with heavy rains while sea levels are projected to rise by up to 1m by the end of the century — just 80 years from now.
A video illustration he used showed that rising sea levels will first impact Pulau Tekong and the cluster of islands south of Singapore.
Then they will next hit Jurong Island and the city to East Coast stretch — both of which had been identified by Mr Lee as “critical segments” where work is to be prioritised.
While he emphasised that these segments will not be submerged under water yet, they will be at risk like how Chinatown used to be in the old days — “high tide, rain, trouble”, he said.
VALUE OF RECLAIMED LAND
One solution is to build “polders” and dykes as the Dutch have done, which will include reclaiming new land from the sea and keeping the land dry.
Another alternative is to reclaim a series of islands offshore from Marina East to Changi, connect them up with barrages and create a reservoir — similar to Marina Reservoir that is formed with the Marina Barrage.
A small polder is already being built at Pulau Tekong to gain some experience operating one, Mr Lee said, adding that the reclaimed land there will be used for Singapore Armed Forces training.
As for the eastern coastline, polders are also a “serious option” and the reclaimed land can be used for “housing and other purposes”, Mr Lee added.
Mr Koh said that these new parcels of land that might be introduced to the 17km eastern coastline could become prime land if opened for residential development, since they would likely enjoy more of a sea view.
Agreeing, Mr Alan Cheong, executive director of research and consultancy at property firm Savills Singapore, noted that if the new land comes to be considered as “much more valuable”, it will boost the values of sites inland because prices in the same area are “correlated”.
ERA Realty’s head of research Nicholas Mak said that the Government’s plans should “give some comfort” instead of riling up the market.
“Property prices won’t go down if there is confidence in the Government to fix the issue,” he said.
‘ASSURANCES’ FROM GOVERNMENT, EFFORTS FROM INDIVIDUALS
Speaking to TODAY at (ITE) College Central in Ang Mo Kio after the rally, Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Member of Parliament (MP) in the East Coast Group Representative Constituency (GRC), said that Mr Lee’s suggestions will hopefully “give some assurances that measures will be put in place”.
Noting that the younger generation is concerned about environmental issues, he added: “I am glad young people are very aware that this is the future for them because they are going to be the ones inheriting the places.”
Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng, who often champions environmental causes in Parliament, said that while the Government can make adaptations to retain property value along the East Coast Road area, climate change efforts do not stop there.
“I think what PM Lee covered was very important, but it is not just about what the Government can do. It is about what individuals can do…
“We need people to reduce, reuse and — as I keep stressing as the very last resort — recycle… Everybody can do it,” he said. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NABILAH AWANG AND LOUISA TANG