S'pore ups fight against rising sea levels

A 15-km stretch of crisp white beach is one of the key battlegrounds in Singapore's campaign to defend its hard-won territory against rising sea levels linked to climate change.

Stone breakwaters are being enlarged on the low-lying island state's man-made east coast and their heights raised.

Barges carrying imported sand top up the beach, which is regularly breached by high tides.

Singapore, the world's second most densely populated country after Monaco, only covers 715 square km.

It has already reclaimed large areas to expand its economy and population boosting its land area by more than 20 per cent since 1960.

But the new land is now the frontline in a long-term battle against the sea.

Every square metre is precious in Singapore.

One of the world's wealthiest nations in per-capita terms, it is also among the most vulnerable to climate change that is heating up the planet, changing weather patterns and causing seas to rise as the oceans warm and glaciers and icecaps melt.

Late last year, the government decided the height of all new reclamations must be 2.25 metres above the highest recorded tide level a rise of a metre over the previous mandated minimum height.

The additional buffer was costly but necessary, Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told Reuters in a recent interview.

"You are buying insurance for the future," he said during a visit to a large flood control barrier that separates the sea from a reservoir in the central business area.

A major climate change review for the Chinese government last week said China's efforts to protect vulnerable coastal areas with embankments were inadequate.

It said in the 30 years up to 2009, the sea level off Shanghai rose 11.5cm; in the next 30 years, it will probably rise another 10 to 15cm.

Since it was created by the British as a trading port in the early 19th century, Singapore has turned to the sea to expand and has become one of the world's fastest-growing countries in terms of new land area.

More land is being regularly reclaimed.

Much of the city centre is on reclaimed land, including an expanding financial district, a new terminal for ocean liners and a $3.2 billion underground expressway, part of which runs under the sea.

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