Making every patch of land work harder

SINGAPORE - Singapore is not unique - not in its ambition to be a leading global city, not in its size constraints, or in its diversity and the tensions that result when people from all backgrounds rub shoulders with one another.

But it has tried to manage its land use in some unusual ways, such as reclaiming a large percentage of its land area, going underground, and making every patch of land work harder.

Turning marshes or sea to solid land is one of Singapore's oldest methods of creating more land area.

Since the 1960s, Singapore has added more than 100 sq km, or a sixth of its original size - five times the size of the greater Tampines area.

The industrial Jurong Island itself is made up of seven smaller islands stitched together by reclamation, and at 32 sq km it is larger than Singapore's four gazetted nature reserves put together.

Today, the Government's Land Use Plan proposes future reclamation along northern and southern coastlines and islands from Pulau Tekong to Pulau Hantu, though environment groups are concerned this could affect marine biodiversity.

Land reclamation also has a limit: Filling in greater sea depths takes more sand and is more costly. Along the southern coast, reclaiming land farther out to sea would also begin to interfere with shipping lanes.

Singapore also puts some functions underground, particularly those that would otherwise take up too much valuable surface land.

Since 2008, the military has stored ammunition beneath a disused Mandai quarry, while the Jurong Rock Cavern is being built to store crude oil and other petroleum products.

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