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  New Paper 25 May 07
Sentosa's treasure island of coral

Reclamation works could see some marine works of art go.
Nature lovers call to save
By Teh Jen Lee

BENEATH the waves at Sentosa's northern shore, near the cable car tower, lies a thriving coral habitat. Well-formed coral in different shapes and colours make up an underwater home for fish, crabs and even seahorses. Sea grasses, sponges, anemones, sand dollars, and other marine species add to the diversity of life.

But nature enthusiasts are concerned about the impact the reclamation work for Sentosa's integrated resort will have on this coral habitat.

This was first raised by amateur photographer Ria Tan, 46, who had discovered the coral-rich shore last month. The civil servant, who was involved in documenting the diversity of Chek Jawa, wrote in her blog: 'In a pool right in front of the Underwater World is a thicket of branching corals. 'The ground was crowded with anemones and other marine life. Little fishes were darting everywhere!'

She is worried that the corals may be damaged if the shores on both sides of the cable-car tower are reclaimed, as there are plans to reclaim 8ha in the area.

Retired professor Teh Tiong Sa, who specialises in coastal landforms and has studied land reclamation since the 1980s, said: 'Near-shore habitats in the area reclaimed will be completely buried.

'Past relocation projects were not successful because the corals eventually died out.'

The New Paper team joined Ms Tan and four other nature enthusiasts to explore the shore last Thursday. For three hours, starting at 3.30am, we combed the area near the base of the cable car tower with flashlights as the tide went out.


We had to go at that hour because the trip was planned to coincide with the lowest tides of the month. Only when the tide is low enough can the corals be seen without dive equipment.

There were soft and hard corals which had grown over a metre wide. Some looked like spherical boulders while others were like fossilised cabbage. In the dark it was difficult to see their colours, but we could make out shades of green, red, blue, maroon and brown.

So how will the reclamation affect the corals?

The Nature Society of Singapore has requested Resorts World at Sentosa (RWS) to assess the environmental impact of the planned reclamation. The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) details the impact of reclamation works on the corals and recommendations on protecting them.

Mr Leong Kwok Peng, chairman of the Nature Society marine conservation group, said: 'We hope the EIA will be available for comments so stakeholders can give feedback. 'In past reclamation projects, such as the one at Labrador and Pulau Ular, EIA reports were made available to the public.'

So far, RWS has not replied but Mr Leong understands that the EIA report is being reviewed by government agencies including the National Environment Agency and National Parks Board.

This was confirmed by a spokesman for RWS to The New Paper. In an e-mail reply, she said: 'We are aware that the beauty of the IR development has much to do with the natural assets of the site. As such, the resort will pursue strategies that are both environmentally-conscious and feasible.'

RWS commissioned DHI Water & Environment, a consultant in marine environmental impact assessment and management of marine construction works, to do the impact assessment.

Mr Michael Chin, RWS senior director for projects, said the EIA indicates that there are areas that may have corals worth transplanting. He said: 'We are waiting for the authorities' input. We have every intention to be an active conservationist. If the experts concur that we should save the corals, we will.'

Related articles on Southern Islands Development including the Sentosa IR
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