Environmental Management and Conflict in Southeast Asia – Land Reclamation and its Political Impact
Date of Issue2006
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
Land-scarce Singapore has no choice but to carry out massive reclamation to cope with its population growth and economic development. The ability for Singapore to continue to carry out its reclamation to enlarge its territory is tied to its survival as a competitive economy. Land reclamation works have been carried out in Singapore since the late 19th century when Singapore was a British colony. After Singapore was separated from Malaysia in 1965, massive land reclamation has been ongoing almost non-stop since then without giving rise to any dispute with its neighbours. Dredged sea sand has been used for reclamation in Singapore long ago, initially the sea sand come from seabed within Singapore’s territory and later from Malaysia and Indonesia. But for the first time in 2002, such reclamation works have figured in volatile ties between Singapore and Malaysia when Malaysia protested vehemently about the trans-boundary environmental impact of Singapore’s reclamation works. At the same time, Indonesian leaders imposed an export ban of sea sand from Indonesia to Singapore because they felt that sea sand was being shipped to enlarge Singapore’s territory at environmental costs that surpassed the economic benefits from selling the sand. This paper will review the reclamation efforts by Singapore and the perceived threat that it poses to neighbouring countries including Malaysia and Indonesia in the context of the concerns over environmental degradation, territorial rights and the tensions engendered in the relations among these countries. This paper will argue that the dispute between Singapore and Malaysia as well as Singapore and Indonesia should not be securitised. Instead, such non-traditional security issues should be viewed as ‘desecuritised’. This need is particularly acute in this uncertain time because of the threats of terrorism and the challenge of escalation in economic rivalry brought about by globalisation and the opening of China and India.
DRNTU::Social sciences::Political science
RSIS Working Papers, 101-06
Nanyang Technological University