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The New Paper, 31 Mar 04

Road to link Sentosa to St John? | Plans for the Southern Islands | Visibility problems

Road to link Sentosa to St. John's Island?
by Teh Jen Lee

Bumped off a bumboat headed for St. John's? Fret not. One day you could be taking a scenic drive from Orchard Road all the way to St. John's and Lazarus Islands south of Singapore. Or walking to St. John's from Sentosa.

With a land link, visitors could well drive from the city to the islands, via Sentosa, in about 30 minutes. It's a possibility that is being considered by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) as part of a move to turn the Southern Islands into a world-class holiday resort, it's spokesman told the New Paper: "A transport link is one of the considerations we will look at as we study the development of a world-class resort on the Southern Islands".

If the project gains momentum, industry experts forsee a road link between Sentosa and the Southern Islands becoming a reality in just 3-5 years. Under the ambitious tourism plan disclosed by Trade and Industry Minister George Yeo in Parliament earlier this month, this chain of islands could be turned into a glamorous resort to attract international jet-setters. It will have beaches, hotels, marinas, sports complexes, convention centres, health spas, retail shops, restaurants, theme attractions, and maybe even a casino.

BG Yeo mentioned Dubai's Palm Resort and the Bahamas' Atlantis when he talked of what the new resort might look like. The development would cover 500ha, which would make it about 10 times the size of the Botanic Gardens.

A local reclamation expert, who has worked on the Southern Islands project, told the New Paper that this can be done in 2 and a half to 3 years, if material such as sand is available.

Before reclamation, the original size of the Southern Islands, consisting of the two Sisters' Islands, St. John's Island, Lazarus Island, Pulau Seringat, Kusu and Pulau Terkukor, was 108ha.

Some reclamation has been done since 2000 because of an earlier "resort-lifestyle" plan that would cost $280million. But an MTI spokesman said that with the new development, the plans for the Southern Islands will be "reviewed".

We contacted Mr Bernard Spoerry, who conceptualised the first Southern Islands plan, to ask what the new plans could mean. The French architect, who has been a consultant of the Singapore Tourism Board since 1990, said: "The figure of 500ha is only consistent with the extension of the Sentosa land mass all the way to the Southern Islands". So the net effect of the reclamation could be a road from Sentosa to the islands. Or it could be a causeway, like the $238-million one linking the mainland and Jurong Island, a 3,200ha industrial complex formed by the reclamation of seven islands.

Mr Spoerry said the idea of linking Sentosa and the Southern Islands was discussed at length in the mid-90s. However, there was concern that this would reduce tidal flow of water around Singapore harbour. He said: "The water quality is fully dependent on the flushing effect of tidal currents passing between Sentosa and the Southern Islands. Without it, the water would just stagnate."

The MTI spokesman told the New Paper that the study of its plans will take into consideration the various issues raised, including the marine environment and nature conservation. This was done in 1997, when the Housing Board engaged the National University of Singapore to carry out an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the neighbouring waters and islands. She said: "The EIA covered water quality and the coral reef community in these areas. If further reclamation is required, an EIA will be carried out before the work commences."

She noted that the developments on the Southern Islands will make Singapore a more vibrant and attractive place, and contribute to the tourism industry and economic growth. The online Government consultation portal is soliciting feedback for the project until Apr 16. Comments can be submitted throught his website

Related articles: Plans for the Southern Islands | Visibility problems

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