Will Singapore Sink

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In 2019, Indonesia announced that they’re siam-ing out of Jakarta. The city is sinking and it’s making everyone panic. Can it also happen to Singapore?

To be fair, the recent flash floods - or should we say, ponding - have been quite bad. In his National Day Rally speech, PM Lee even talked about rising sea levels.

Which begs the question  — with the Earth heating up, will Singapore become ‘Sink-apore’?

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Why is our neighbour sinking?

In Jakarta, their water comes from the ground. For every 5 residents, 3 are using groundwater for everything - from tap water to taking a shower.

The groundwater is being sucked dry and the land can’t hard-carry the weight of the buildings anymore.

Singapore doesn’t have groundwater to start with, our water falls from the sky. So all’s good in the hood right?

Sure, until you remember that Singapore is a low-lying island.

So here’s the real reason why Singapore is in a pickle. About a third of our island is less than 5m above sea level.

It is predicted that by 2500, sea levels will rise by 7 metres in Singapore. In the Marina Bay area, tourists are gonna need a canoe to see the Merlion.

With the sea encroaching on our little red dot, life as we know it will never be the same.

Heads up to the Easties, you might be in trouble. Coastal neighbourhoods like Pasir Ris and Katong are only 1 - 5 meters above sea level.

When water levels rise by 7 metres in 2500, these neighbourhoods are gonna be unlivable. No more “east side best side”, because people are gonna be homeless.

Meanwhile, neighbourhoods like Bukit Timah and Bishan will be safe because they’re in central Singapore. The land here is 25 - 55 metres above sea level. So maybe the Easties can relocate… but this leads to a bunch of other problems.

If all the Easties move to the central area, Singaporeans are gonna be packed like sardines.

In 2019, Singapore is already overcrowded. Our lil red dot is about 724 square kilometres. According to our population census, there are 5.6 million people in Singapore. That’s about 8 humans per square metre.

Fast forward to 2500. By our estimates, when water levels rise by 7 metres, only 1/7th of Singapore will be livable.

Calculations show that all the livable neighbourhoods only add up to about 98 square kilometres.

Let’s assume that all baby-making is put on hold and Singapore’s population stays the same. If everyone relocates to central Singapore, there’ll be 57 people per square metre.

We can’t human Tetris our way out of this claustrophobic mess.

Rent prices will also skyrocket. While the demand for housing will be high, the supply is scarce. But overcrowding is only the start of our problems.

The advancing saltwater will also spoil our drinking water supply and Singaporeans are gonna feel the thirst.

We have a freshwater network of 16 reservoirs, each connected to longkangs and rivers. This is how we collect rainwater for everyday use. Marina Reservoir is the big daddy, with 3 rivers and 2 canals.

It’s our largest reservoir and only a concrete dam separates it from the sea. So if the sea level rises and overflows into the reservoir, we can kiss our freshwater supply bye-bye.  

It’s gonna take more effort to purify our water, which means higher utility bills. Bottled water will probably fly off the shelves too. With price-inflation from the supply shortage, people might even start selling water on Carousell for $20 dollars.

In neighbouring countries, saltwater contamination means smaller rice yields. What does this mean for Singaporeans? Our chicken rice might cost 10 bucks, and maybe you can’t even “jia fan” anymore.

Over the years, our dear country has done much to keep Singaporeans safe and dry. Most of our coastal areas have hardwalls to protect the sand from erosion.

Remember the severe “ponding” at Orchard Road in 2018? Yeah, PUB took care of that.

Betchu didn’t know that we have a giant tank under the Botanic Gardens for those extra rainy days. This tank can hold up to 15 Olympic sized swimming pools of stormwater. The tank can be drained in 4 hours tops.

Plus, the spanking new 2km-long underground canal network is meant to protect our central area against future flash floods.

If it starts raining cats and dogs, the stormwater is channeled into the Singapore River which empties out into Marina Reservoir.

In the future, Singapore will be pouring S$100 billion into R&D for climate change. Our island’s East Coast is also getting an upgrade, with protective infrastructure like polders.

Empoldering is like the more woke cousin of land reclamation. Instead of pouring sand to create more land, you’re draining out seawater to get to the land underneath.

The lowered land is protected from rising sea levels by a raised seawall called a dike. The network of drains and pumps help to regulate the water levels inland.

Sounds like a lot of effort? This is all done in the name of fighting rising sea levels and climate change. Pulau Tekong already has a polder in the works, so why not do it on mainland Singapore!

It may seem like we got it together, but we shouldn’t take it for granted. Besides, you can make a difference! Keep your air-con at 25 degrees or even better, use energy-saving LED bulbs.

If every household in Singapore stops using fluorescent light bulbs for a year, the energy saved can power 1,000 4-room HDB flats. So a little bit really goes a long way.

If there’s anything we should really be kiasu about, let’s make it climate change.