Thursday, February 13, 2014

Malaysia News: The rise of Iskandar Malaysia: Implications for Singapore’s marine and coastal environment (6 Feb 2014)

The rise of Iskandar Malaysia: Implications for Singapore’s marine and coastal environment

Published on February, 2014 by Pau Khan Khup Hangzo and Alistair D.B. Cook
Iskandar Malaysia, a major economic zone in the southern part of Malaysia, is experiencing meteoric growth. Given that the zone lies along the Straits of Johor, how will the increasing industrialisation and urbanisation seen in the area affect the marine and coastal environment? Also, what are the implications of this growth for Singapore, whose northern coast lies on the other side of the Straits? This NTS Insight investigates these questions and suggests ways to mitigate the potential impacts of developments in Iskandar Malaysia on Singapore’s marine and coastal environment.
Model of Iskandar Malaysia (in green). Iskandar Malaysia, at 2,217 sq km, is touted as the ‘the largest single development project ever to be undertaken in the region’.
Credit: Pau Khan Khup Hangzo.

The importance of marine and coastal ecosystems – coastal floodplains, mangroves, marshes, beaches, dunes and coral reefs – should not be underestimated. Coastal areas host a diverse range of organisms, providing them with food, shelter, breeding areas and nursery grounds; and coastal ecosystems help prevent erosion and filter pollution.1 Coastal areas also contribute to a country’s economy, providing water and space for shipping and ports and serving as a source of raw materials such as salt and sand.2 Coastal areas are also popular as locales for various recreational activities.
Singapore, as one of the world’s smallest countries with a coastline of just 268 km,3 has long recognised the importance of its coastal and marine ecosystems, and there are national efforts to preserve them through nature reserves and designated ‘nature areas’. Within this context, the massive projects in the Iskandar Malaysia economic zone in Johor, just across the border from Singapore, could have important implications. This NTS Insight suggests that, while it is easy to overlook the potential spillover impacts from the activities in Iskandar Malaysia, it is important that the issue be addressed.
Drawing insights from both primary and secondary sources, this NTS Insight first provides an overview of the Straits of Johor and Singapore’s marine and coastal ecosystem. It then discusses the developments in Iskandar Malaysia, identifying potential sources of pollution, both land- and sea-based, and their potential impacts on Singapore’s marine and coastal environment. The NTS Insight argues that it is in the interest of both Malaysia and Singapore to protect their shared marine and coastal ecosystems in and around the Straits of Johor, and that joint efforts should be stepped up.

Singapore’s marine and coastal ecosystem

Despite its small size and its largely urban character, Singapore continues to have high biodiversity, both terrestrial and marine. It has four nature reserves that collectively cover 33.26 sq km, or about 4.7 per cent, of the country’s total land area. There are also 18 nature areas – terrestrial, marine and coastal – that have been recognised for their significant biodiversity.
In all, Singapore’s waters are home to 31 of about 56 species of ‘true’ mangrove plants in Asia (those that are found exclusively in the mangrove habitat), about 255 out of a total of 800 species of hard corals in the world, and 12 out of the 23 seagrass species in the Indo-Pacific region.4 There are also over 450 marine and freshwater species of crustaceans, 580 species of molluscs, 856 species of marine fishes and about 500 species of Continue reading 

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